The Boomer Tsunami

There are a lot of folks nearing retirement age, and unless you have done some research or maybe stayed awake in one of my classes about the CAPS program, you may not have an appreciation for the size of the Baby Boomer population (defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as those born between ’46 and ’64). Baby Boomers will have a tidal-wave-like effect on remodeling, and we are beginning to see the early signs.

AARP surveyed members and found a large majority want to stay in their current homes. Many such homes need to be modified for safety and mobility because as we get older, getting around and taking care of ourselves become more challenging. Survey respondents asked how to locate qualified, knowledgeable contractors/designers to make the needed changes to their homes. Prompted by the CGR board of governors, several groups, including AARP, the Council on Aging, NAHB Remodelers, NAHB Research Center, and a group of subject-matter experts in Universal Design, accessible construction interior design and occupational therapy decided there was a need. A representative team was asked to learn about this new potential client and create an educational training program primarily for contractors in the essentials of accessible design and construction.

This new client is someone who has celebrated more birthdays than most of you. There is a lot of misinformation about the client, their disposable income and what difficulties they suffer. What needs to be done to this client’s home to make it safer, more functional and aesthetically pleasing—given the clinic look is not an option?

Working for this client likely is going to be a very different type of job for you—one that takes education and training. You will need to determine whether working for this client is a fit for your company and then train your team to do the business profitably. This is not just something you decide to do; it is a judgment call following investigation.

What is the best, most efficient way to investigate whether to work for this client? A program called CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) has proved very successful. Some take the courses and decide to try it while others find it is not of interest to them. CAPS courses deal with the demographics of the senior population, the maladies from which they suffer and the terminology that is used by occupational therapists (OTs). For a remodeler, speaking the OT language is as important as knowing how to change out a window without screwing up the wallpaper.

The courses also deal with design and build, the mix of sales, rapport building, business administration and production that is peculiar to these modifications. It is construction, of course, but it is very different than what you’re used to and so are the costs.

CAPS was developed by NAHB, but one-third of CAPS graduates have other affiliations, such as AIA, AOTA, ASID, NARI and NKBA. As we climb out of the business pothole we have been in, we must look at the profile of our businesses for health, diversity and direction. The need for aging-in-place modifications is ongoing; the effects of aging are not seasonal or recession-sensitive.

The following are some CAPS statistics in which you may be interested:


  • To date, more than 10,000 people have attended one or more CAPS classes.
  • More than 3,700 people have completed the training and been certified under CAPS.
  • Currently, there are more than 2,250 active CAPS companies; they are represented in every state but Wyoming.
  • OTs, employees of the Veterans Administration and local government officials regularly attend CAPS courses and find the value in them.
  • AARP has a CAPS link on its Web site to help locate a CAPS-accredited professional by ZIP code, city or state.


There are 77 million Baby Boomers, and they’re all getting older. Maybe you ought to look into offering aging-in-place modifications as an adjunct to your business before you get much older, while you’re here … .