2015 White House Conference on Aging

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Nora Super and others at Listening Sessions 2014

5. October 2015 14:51
by Nora Super

Modifying Homes for Aging in Place: Helpful Tools and Partners

5. October 2015 14:51 by Nora Super | 13 Comments

Last week, I attended a learning exchange on aging in place sponsored by Habitat for Humanity International and AARP Foundation. The demographic shift toward a larger older population and recognition that most older individuals prefer to stay in their homes and communities as they age has led the venerable Habitat for Humanity to re-examine its practice of building new homes. Homes left empty due to foreclosure and homes occupied by elderly residents often need significant repairs and updates to make them more accessible and safe. AARP Foundation has sponsored several of these learning exchanges across the country to bring together Habitat affiliates and experts in aging in place to discuss ways to advance common goals. It’s these kind of community-based solutions that continually inspire me as we work on ways to improve the lives of older Americans and their families.

Home modifications can make our homes more livable, safe, and comfortable for those of all ages and abilities. As part of the White House Conference on Aging, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a 2-page guide detailing some simple modifications, which are relatively, low-cost, do-it-yourself changes, as well as more complex modifications, which may require professional or skilled volunteer assistance. Home Depot also released a tip sheet and “how to” video highlighting simple home modifications to help individuals age in place. These home modifications can benefit individuals in many ways including:

  • Preventing falls and injuries
  • Helping you more easily move around and use your home 
  • Increasing your home’s value
  • Increasing feelings of confidence for family caregivers
  • Making your home more accessible for visitors who have difficulty walking or a disability

Kudos to these wonderful partners for exploring and acting on how they can help individuals age in place. Let’s all do our part by making some modifications that can help to safeguard the health and well-being of older individuals and people with disabilities. 

Comments (13) -

I'm just a 67 year old still working to make ends meet.  I did buy a home recently and I'm hoping to stay in it until I pass on to the Lord.  My husband is retired and has some health problems.  Always something new.  

I was greatly moved to read Nora Super's article about 'aging in place'.  It is so reassuring to see there actually are people concerned about the aging population.  So often all we hear is that Social Security may go away and the same of Medicare.  I've worked since I was 16 and paid into Social Security.  I hate to see us loose that because of government mismanagement.  

Nora's article helped me to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you.

Thank you for this blog, Nora, but you have missed a big piece of the home repair and modification picture for seniors and persons with disabilities. Since the 1990's, our agency has provided over $1.5 million in home repairs for our clients utilizing funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds allocated by the federal government to most municipalities, and also through the Federal Home Loan Bank program. In our case, we work with three local banking institutions that can tap into the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis. These funds are not loans, but rather community redevelopment funds that are required to be paid into a pool by participating banks. We spend up to $300,000 annually in our community in FHLBI funds alone, and can provide new roofs, sewer connections, HVAC, ramps, commodes, and a host of other needed repairs. We used to be able to partner with Habitat, but unfortunately, we can no longer do so, since the repairs are required to be done by licensed, bonded, and insured contractors. We want to spread the word regarding the opportunity for senior centers throughout the country to get into the home repair business, and we are happy to provide technical assistance to other organizations. We recently provided another local city with the tools they needed to implement such a program. We hope that in the future the White House conference may be able to facilitate a meeting such as the one you attended, that includes those agencies such as ours that have decades of experience and wish to share it. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your blog post!    

Excellent news!  Next let's include smart home technologies to make these newly renovated homes connected to the emergency grid.  Thank you Habitat for Humanity and AARP Foundation for leading the movement.

I'd like to know how these recommendations are being implemented in new housing in all our communities. These recommendations can make a significant difference in people being able to age in place.

As an employee of a non-profit that serves seniors, I am always on the lookout for programs that will benefit seniors.  Over the past year I have become more and more frustrated with articles from major non-profits or groups that use volunteers to serve those in need - Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity and yes, even AARP.  The websites and articles will profess that there are all of these programs but in reality there are not.  Rebuilding Together is not in our area.  AARP Back to Work Program is not in our area.  Habitat for Humanity/A Brush With Kindness (Repair Program) there are no funds for materials in our area.  Goodwill has no programs (EDD/employment) specifically for seniors in our area.  Experience Unlimited (CA EDD) is a farce. Now this blog wants to give kudos to partners for re-publishing what has been published over and over again.  Can we get some of these big players like Goodwill, AARP and Habitat for Humanity to quit looking for a photo opp or a pat on the back and deliver on solutions that involve more than a re-write of a Fall Prevention Class?

I too worked in a n-f-p agency and felt limited by long waiting lists for limited programs that often were expensive for seniors and provided only limited services.
Having to use only licensed/bonded etc companies who'd win contracts didn't necessarily mean the work was more carefully or more well done either.
I hope you will continue to voice these issues. I'm tired of those photo opps too!

We are so excited to see that there is a growing discussion on the value of  home modifications as a means to help those who can age safely in their own home to do so.  We have been actively involved in this service for over 8 years.  Our model is different in that we incorporate an Occupational Therapist in our service model.  As a post acute health care professional for over 40 years and a home care nurse, I recognized decades ago the need for this service.  A far too often scenerio of my patients was that they had to leave their home and move to a nursing home because their house was no longer functionally safe for them to move around in.  Their doorways were too narrow for a walker or wheelchair to get through, bathtubs were too high, showers with high threshold that were dangerous, and getting into their homes was difficult, if not impossible. when they were using a wheelchair.  Today there are many options to overcome these problems.  The Lifewise Renovations' team uses a unique approach.  It is more of a medical model.  We provide a complete evaluation of the home and provide our clients with a comprehensive assessment performed by both an Occupational Therapist (OT ) and a remodeler who is CAPS certified in Universal Design.  We provide recommendations to our clients so that they can better understand what is required to make their home environment more accessible.  We are making a difference in the lives of our clients every day as they look to us to help them age in place.  I am so glad that the recognition of  adapting a home can make all the difference between someone being able to stay home instead needing to move to alternative housing.  

OK.  So we begin yet another "top down" approach with little of no thought to HOW TO GET THESE GRANDIOSE IDEAS INTO THE HEADS OF THE PEOPLE WHO NEED THEM.  Let me suggest one way.

Utilize the existing network of Area Agencies on Aging, whose jurisdictions cover every nook and cranny of America.  Have the federal government, AARP, State Agencies on Aging, national and regional building code organizations, and Home Depot/Lowes establish a FUNDED program, via the Area Agencies on Aging, to 1) publish a single guidebook of projects and standards (AARP HomeFit Guide plus Dept of Housing and Urban Development input plus Home Depot hints and techniques, etc.)  2)educate seniors about home modifications 3) recruit and train licensed contractors willing and able to implement home modification plans 4) assist do-it-yourselfers who are willing to go it alone and 5) fund non-profit organizations and local governments in cities, towns, and unincorporated areas to facilitate the work.

This is wonderful information and a great conversation starter for those looking to age in place! There are so many things to consider when making a home safe.  I hope that hearing/seeing how simple it is to make small changes, will encourage people to seek more guidance on how they can personalize their home for safety. Hearing loss, loss of eyesight, loss of strength, back issues, etc.  have unique drawbacks. Educating people... all people on how important it is to make their home safe for them, their families and for their friends who visit is a great plan.

I hope that one day having a home safety evaluation will be considered preventative and an incentive for insurance agencies (health, life, car) to grant discounts. Maybe the white house will fund home safety evaluations across the united states and stop falls before they happen!

Please keep me informed - I can no longer get in and out of my tub and have not had a bath in 2 years.

What a brilliant 'merger!' Habitat For Humanity and AARP, a beautiful marriage for true needs of our country's citizens and the desire to help those in need. I'll be attending an AARP Conference in Phoenix this week as an Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation representative, and will look forward to conversation on these new developments. Thank you.

YES! so excited to see the importance of home modifications for aging in place. Please remember that an occupational therapist can do a client centered evaluation of the home to make recommendations.

The basic premise here is faulty.  That premise is that the senior still retains ownership of their home to do the modifications recommended.  According to a May 2013 report of the Kaiser Family Foundation, we have 48% of our seniors (over age 65), who are below twice the poverty threshold.  The four legs of the chair supporting retirees have all been under attack by both corporate an governmental entities since the early 1990's.  Those legs are: (a) Employer-Sponsored Retiree Healthcare; (b) Social Security; (c) Medicare; and (d) Pensions (D.P.B).

Millions have lost their employer-provided supplemental healthcare when most vulnerable...after retirement.  Such a disaster is legal due to case law decisions and a Congress that just does not care.  Congress has had open war against Social Security and Medicare benefits and the latest salvo comes with the "De-Risking" of pensions which results in the loss of protections from ERISA.  

So the encouragement of seniors to modify their homes to make them safe etc. is like openly selling junk food to the same people you are giving classes on nutrition.

Jack Cohen, Chairman
Association of BellTel Retirees Inc

Consultant to

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