By Elizabeth Lowe
As people are living longer today than ever before, many are choosing to remain in their homes rather than move to senior housing or continuing care retirement communities.
Nonprofit organizations such as Civic Works, Inc. in Baltimore and Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. (CHAI) in Park Heights work to keep senior citizens safe in their homes with renovations.
Christy Bullman, elders services manager for Civic Works Inc., which serves people ages 65 and over in northeast Baltimore City in need of home repairs, said the organization performs repairs from roof to basement, front door to back door, from fixing leaky roofs to installing grab bars in hallways and bathrooms.
“It’s not trying to overcome the obstacles of an 87-year-old living in her home by herself,” Bullman said. “It’s finding the funding and the interest and the will.”
Keeping senior citizens in their homes is good for communities, Bullman said.
“Older adults are the ones who have been homeowners the longest in the neighborhood,” Bullman said. “It’s important from a property standpoint to keep up the neighborhood.”
Ken Gelula, executive director of CHAI, a housing and community development organization which serves low-income seniors in northwest Baltimore City, said “it’s really important to the welfare of the neighborhood to do what we can to help these people.”
That includes enabling older Americans to remain in their homes, Gelula said.
“The best thing for a senior is to be in an apartment building where there’s other people around and there’s activities,” Gelula said, “but that’s not what everybody wants.”
Gelula, co-chairman of the Maryland Task Force to Study the Renovation and Repair Needs of Senior Homeowners, which was formed in July, said other task forces talk about seniors aging in place, “but they’ve never focused on the issue of the house, the house that they (senior citizens) own.”
Mike Lachance, legislative liaison for the Maryland Department of Aging, said one of the most valuable things the task force will bring is “the opportunity to educate the public, as well as policy makers, of the value of providing low-cost repairs and maintenance to allow seniors to stay in place.”
Installing grab bars and widening doorways can make a home safer and wheelchair accessible, which “is optimal,” Lachance said.
“Something as simple as no threshold makes a big, big difference,” Lachance said. “You’re making the community a nicer place to live, you’re encouraging diversity by allowing persons who have certain needs to still live in your community with you.”
Tips for home safety
· Ensure stairs have railings on both sides
· Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it
· Set a timer when cooking
· Install grip mats on bathroom floors and in the tub
· Remove or tape down scatter rugs
· Use nightlights
· Reroute cords to avoid tripping
· Keep doors locked and know who is on the other side before opening them
· Wear quality, lace-up shoes
· Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors annually
· Keep a list of emergency contacts and daily medications on the refrigerator
· Keep a cordless or mobile phone on your person in case of falls
Source: Civic Works Inc.