USC Davis course helps contractors make homes safer for older adults
A new online program assesses challenges and injury risks, using universal design principles to modify homes
The USC Davis School of Gerontology has joined forces with The Hartford, the AARP’s endorsed provider of home insurance, to help older homeowners remain in their homes safely as they age.
The new Executive Certified Home Modification Provider (ECHMP) program was created by the USC Fall Prevention Center of Excellence in cooperation with gerontologists at The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. The six-week online program teaches contractors how to assess challenges and injury risks to older adults in the home and how to use universal design principles to modify homes, making them safer for a wide range of ages and levels of functioning.
The program is offered to The Hartford’s affiliated contractors who are members of the Crawford Contractor Connection, a national network of more than 4,800 contractors delivering property-managed repair services to insurance carriers, as well as delivering services direct to consumers for repairs, remodeling and special needs home modifications.
In the fall of 2014, 21 contractors completed the first course and provided highly positive feedback regarding the quality and applicability of the program materials, said Julie Overton, training and resource development specialist with USC Davis and one of the program’s creators.
“I have been personally working with The Hartford and AARP customers for over 10 years,” one student said in an anonymous course survey. “I see a need to help our aging customers and see this class as a great learning opportunity.”
As a result of the successful pilot course, the program will be offered twice yearly, Overton said.
“It’s not just about learning to assess the home and decide which universal design elements to recommend,” she said. “It’s also about learning to work well with older homeowners and understand their particular needs.”
Lance Malcolm, chief operations officer with Crawford Contractor Connection, agreed.
We partnered with USC and The Hartford on this program to give our contractors the opportunity to learn key skills and insights about universal design and home modifications.
“We pride ourselves on the exceptional service our network contractors deliver to homeowners. We partnered with USC and The Hartford on this program to give our contractors the opportunity to learn key skills and insights about universal design and home modifications. This knowledge directly benefits their clients and gives them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
As members of the baby boomer generation approach age 70 and beyond, more Americans will face aging-related challenges at home, from difficulty in completing housework and home maintenance to risks of falls and other accidents.
With the majority of older adults wishing to remain at home for as long as they can, smart home modifications can help homes remain safe and comfortable for years to come, said Jon Pynoos, USC Davis professor and Falls Prevention Center of Excellence co-director.
As baby boomers approach their 70th birthdays, an increasing number of Americans will be at risk of falls.
“As baby boomers approach their 70th birthdays, an increasing number of Americans will be at risk of falls,” Pynoos said. “Home modifications can help prevent falls and make it easier to age in place, the overwhelming preference of older persons.”
Jodi Olshevski MSG ’91, executive director and gerontologist for The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence, said contractors who complete the program are uniquely equipped to help older adults.
“The Hartford’s partnership with USC was born out of a commitment to promote universal design and home modifications to support aging in place,” Olshevski said. “The ECHMP program created for contractors who work with The Hartford customers is innovative and impactful. When our customers work with an ECHMP-certified contractor, they will receive a distinct experience because opportunities are identified and solutions are provided to help them have a ‘home for a lifetime.’ ”