|Photo: Charles Edwards|
Lots of people read "Fixing to Stay," a study of Americans older than 45 that was released by AARP in 2000. It showed that 83% of respondents wanted to stay in their homes as long as possible. But 28% saw the difficulty of finding a reliable contractor as a major obstacle to that goal. Dan Bawden, CAPS, CGR, GMB, J.D., read that study and decided to do something about it.
"I was thinking, 'There are a lot of great contractors in the NAHB Remodelors Council and NARI and even outside those organizations," he explains. "'All the members of AARP who need this stuff and older Americans generally are looking for good contractors, and good contractors are always looking for good jobs, so why don't we mix the two together?'"
The origins of CAPS: Bawden, president of Legal Eagle Contractors in Houston, called AARP to find out who spearheaded the study and connected with senior housing specialist Leon Harper (who’s no longer with the organization). "The idea was met with interest but skepticism by Mr. Harper," says Bawden. "He didn't think he wanted to recommend our contractors to AARP members."
The two started talking instead about the special training remodelers might need to work with seniors, and the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist program was born. Harper pushed for extending the program over more than one day, taking a closed-book test to pass and requiring continuing education and recertification to provide accountability.
"We worked hard to incorporate those ideas into the model of CAPS so that it would be credible to AARP," Bawden says. "Their stamp of approval is a really good thing to have, and it distinguishes CAPS from anything else that NAHB is doing. We have a major, national, high-visibility partner in this."
William "Rusty" Deiss, then part of the national Remodelors Council staff and now part of the NAHB's University of Housing, helped Bawden develop and write a CAPS action plan that divided work among volunteers and staff.
The aggressive time line called for the NAHB Research Center to put the curriculum together in a year. Beta classes were launched in late 2001, with the first official classes held in May 2002 at the Seniors Housing Symposium.
A popular program: Since May, CAPS courses have filled quickly at every trade show where they’ve been offered, with about 200 remodelers and designers receiving the designation. Remodelors Council executive director Therese Crahan considers the program one of the council’s strongest educational offerings. "The more classes being taught, the more remodelers will be on the street with the credential and the more homeowners will learn about the opportunity to call them," Bawden says.
Word has been getting to consumers via the media, with newspapers from the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times to the Los Angeles Times running articles on the program. It has made inroads on the Internet, with mentions on sites for real estate pros (www.realtytimes.com) as well as for caregivers (www.fullcirclecare.org, www.elderweb.com and www.aginghelp.com).
In a year when remodelers again were named the No. 1 source of consumer complaints (see Readers' Response, page 15), the positive publicity is a bright spot.
Bawden is working on a consumer-oriented PowerPoint presentation about CAPS that should be available in the spring. He envisions this ready-made marketing tool as being easy to customize and usable for presentations to Kiwanis or Lions Club groups as well as to individual homeowners.
He's also working with the council to make sure CAPS classes become more widely available to architects, real estate agents, and physical and occupational therapists as well as builders and remodelers. "The medical people are interested in coming to at least one of the classes, even if they don’t care about the designation," Bawden says. "They want to know what kind of skills and talents the remodelers will bring to the picture when they release someone from the hospital."
Helping remodelers help themselves