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Should service and housing providers be certified in technology for aging in place?

In nearly every aspect of service delivery, service providers strive to attain certifications of agreed-upon minimum standards of knowledge and competence -- for example: of course there are technology certifications in technology categories (see Microsoft, Cisco). The US Green Building Council has levels of certification for awareness and Green building practitioners. 

Now let's get a little closer to home - National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) for building contractors, interior designers, and architects.  And the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers also offers certification levels of care and case management.  Today, neither of these certifications specifically requires awareness of: wireless home networks, broadband access, or PCs for a professional to get the CAPS certification. And for GCMs, nothing about personal emergency response, fall detection, or chronic disease management technologies. Individuals with an interest may learn on their own, and some training programs offer an overview, but professional associations don't mandate it.

Now let's lay a bit of assumption groundwork: let's assume that you agree that there are four categories of technology for aging in place, as I have argued in the 2009 Market Overview and in presentations with category examples:

  • Communication and engagement technologies (email, cell phone, videophone, PC and Internet access)
  • Health and wellness technologies (cognitive fitness, medication dispensing and reminder, chronic disease management, exercise)
  • Home safety and security (home monitoring, Personal emergency response, fall detection)
  • Learning and contribution (social networking, education and learning, ancestry tracking)

Just as the content and product knowledge varies regularly within the other certifications described above, so too are the products and vendors who provide technology for aging in place. So given that technology is always changing, are several approaches to creating and managing certification for aging in place technology:

  1. Augment other certifications with a required technology component.  If a CAPS interior designer goes into the home to design new counter heights and doorways, for example, could they also be trained to see if there is a wireless network in the home, a PC or other internet-accessible device, or a need for home monitoring or other sensor-based technology?
  2. Create a voluntary training and certification program for use across disciplines. These seems more plausible, since geriatric care managers and interior designers are both in the home under different circumstances and could each assess and make recommendations -- and provide referrals to tech implementors they have identified in their local area.

Any thoughts before diving down either of these approaches?



category tags: 


I think you're right on with your questions!

As an early CAPS holder and an advocate for aging in place wth technology, I believe that aging baby boomers and their elders would be more likely to trust and pay someone who is "certified".

Moreover, I think the time has come for the universal design/inclusive design/lifespan home movements to join together with aging in place technology advocates.

A "Home for Life" Task Force is being formed here in Hawaii which-thus far- doesn't include telecare, broadband, and aging in place technology expertise.

This is unfortunate because aging in place successfully requires more than zero-step entries, wider hallways,larger bathrooms, grab bars, et al.

By the way, I do like your four catagories for aging in place BUT I think your category labels need more consideration. I find them to be too "technocratic" for the baby boomers whom we're tying to serve. I'm striving to come up with more familiar label/phrasing to use with my clients here on Maui.


Communicate, be healthy, stay secure, share knowledge. That might be appropriate for a consumer.


My initial response to your question is a definite, "yes". I think that training & certification are a good way to suppliment current knowledge and gain additional skills. Obviously, there is a need here. And, it would benefit both the consumer and the service provider. I think this is a good idea and could be very beneficial. That being said, here's (the rest of) my 2 cents.

Since entering the aging in place space I've talked with many knowledgeable professionals; some with certifications and/or designations that are specific to aging in place. Many are open to learning from each other, others are not. Most are concerned (especially in the delicate financial times) with keeping business on the books and feeding their families. However, in just about every case I can recall, all have seemed to have a genuine desire to practice their profession well and do right by their clients.

As for consumers, they are looking for real answers to real problems. Planning isn't there; most of the reaching out they do is reactionary to a situation. They need direction, assistance and people with the right information.

Choice #1 sounds good, but I think it would be difficult (to impossible) to implement. First, you would want have to have some backing in each industry and get their buy-in. That means each currently certifying organization would need to agree it is applicable to, and proper for, their membership. Second, I know that most people are in a niche for a reason and most are not going to want to stray from that. Sure, many small business owners are going to be looking to expand their offering, but such a jaunt from their normal operations is a shift I don't think most will (or can) make. Third, the amount of work these professionals have is only going to increase. If they have difficulties keeping up with their chosen type of work, adding a new set of responsibilities may be far too taxing.

Choice #2, as you said, is the most obvious choice. Creating an awareness through training programs that enables them to identify ways of increasing the quality of life for a senior through technology is a winner. Part of that training would be the benefits of incorporating technology as part of the umbrella of care & the importance of having a technology specialist in their network of professionals.

I've spent many a year in I.T. and know how important training is. I've also seen my fair share of ill-conceived training programs. Regardless of the road chosen, I think quality would need to be top priority. Start simple, focus on consumer & business value & stress quality of service. (Perhaps even a tiered set of training.)

Anyway, I could go on for hours. (Sorry.) I am very interested in learning more about your course of action as you vet this out.


I consider a part of my work as a CAPS certified Independent Living Strategist to be referral to all sorts of community resources that may be important to my clients now or in the future. Everyone working in all these related areas should be doing the same thing. My work is rarely of significant value as a stand alone. I need to work and see my work as part of a team of integrated services. Every discipline should include awareness of the others in the training. Your idea of a cross disciplinary training as well is something I like a lot. Maybe a new institute can start the training and encourage other disciplines to allow it as a CEU. This may be the way to get the cross fertilization, synergy, to bring things together. That institute could promote other issues of comprehensive and integrated business development, service delivery and management.

Your blog link was shared by Peter Duroy on the Home Modifications Task Force List, which is how I discovered it. What a great site! I'm not a techie myself, but I always look for strategies to enhance my aging in place projects. I'd bring in a specialist to build in these features, rather than attempt to master a new discipline. I believe it's the designer's job to pull together the team and resources.

I'm glad to have discovered your blog to keep me up to date on what's hot and what's next.

I agree on the specialist (many, many tech folks out there who can and would love to help out in any projects involving seniors).

Still, the certification minimums need to be clarified, in my view -- not to prove that a tech person knows about them, but to standardize what is reviewed when aging-related service individuals of all types enter the home.

As an Occupational Therapist who consults for aging in place I believe it is important to know your own limits. An occupational therapist is an excellent team member to have regarding the life span/aging process and to determine the fit of the person/environment/occupation. Having a certification for technology with regards to this population would be great. It should be an IT person with experience who then takes additional classes (such as CAPS for NAHB) to become more aware of this population and their needs. It is frustrating and sometimes difficult to find (and then train) that IT individual to work with other team players for the best environment for the aging in place client.

Rachael Meguess, OTR, MS
Occupational Therapist
Accessibility Consultant
Beaumont, Texas

On Nurse’s Day-


As a nurse working with the public I had to go through 4 years of schooling, pass state boards, take continuing CEUs, and get advanced training in specialty areas that require bi-yearly certification. On top of this, my employer requires constant updates on skill sets and on-going training. This protects all parties involved in the delivery of health care.

Certification has benefits:

1) By meeting professional requirements, certification protects the public by enabling employers and consumers of health care to identify competent people more readily

2) Certification can recognize specialization and enhance professionalism

3) In some cases it can serve as a criterion for financial reimbursement

4) By keeping abreast of the latest developments (i.e. aging-in-place technologies)

    Professionals can maintain their competence to practice—which boosts self-

   confidence to practice

With the health care setting moving from the clinical setting to the home, people will be increasingly dependent on home-based technologies for prevention and treatment of their health issues. In some cases this could even mean life or death—so it makes sense to have a certification process for aging in place technologies.


The next big question is the certification process itself and governing boards to regulate the process. Will certification be valued world wide? State wide? What role will national and local agencies play in requirements for certification or licensure?


Technology is a fast moving proposition—and aging in place technologies are just now emerging to market. Uniform national/state standards and qualifications for practice competencies, as well as appropriate mechanisms by which the public’s health and safety can be protected, will all have to be worked out.

The project is worthy of consideration…


Patrick J. Roden RN PhD


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