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House WalkwayThe USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology has joined forces with The Hartford, 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 present in the home, and how to use universal design principles to modify homes and make 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 inaugural course and provided highly positive feedback regarding the quality and applicability of the program materials, said Julie Overton, training and resource development specialist with the USC Leonard Davis School and one of the ECHMP program’s creators.

“I have been personally working with The Hartford and AARP customers for over 10 years. I see a need to help our aging customers and see this class as a great learning opportunity,” one student said in an anonymous course survey.

Following the very successful pilot ECHMP course, the program will be offered twice yearly and potentially up to four times per year, Overton added.

“It’s not just about learning to assess the home and decide which universal design elements to recommend,” she said regarding the program’s breadth and depth. “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, agrees. “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.”

Senior man walking down stairs 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 USC Leonard Davis Professor and Falls Prevention Center of Excellence Co-Director Jon Pynoos.

“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.”

Executive Director and Gerontologist for The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence Jodi Olshevski MSG ‘91 said contractors who complete the ECHMP program are uniquely equipped to help older adults who want to remain in their homes for as long as possible.

“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 provided to help them have a ‘home for a lifetime.’”

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