The news that Americans are living longer won’t come as surprise to anyone. According to the Administration on Aging, the number of people over 65 in the U.S. has increased by 27.7% between 2004 and 2014. As of 2014, Minnesota’s senior population totaled about 780,142. Search the news and it’s easy to find a multitude of discussions about how the growing population of older adults affects healthcare, social services and the economy. Housing is not left out of the discussion. One facet of this topic is the concept of aging in place or the ability for older adults to remain in their homes at an advanced age. To many staying in their home, a comforting and familiar environment is preferable to relocating to a relative’s house or assisted living facilities such as nursing homes. Living out their later years in the home they own allows them to preserve dignity and dollars.
As they grow older, some seniors may become less capable of performing the basic home maintenance needed to maintain a healthy living environment. Minnesota Compass reports that Minnesotans in the age range of 65-74 years old have a disability rate of 20%. For people past the age of 74, this rate continues to increase dramatically. Disabilities make staying on top of basic home care such as cleaning gutters, painting and weatherproofing extremely difficult. The same goes for safety precautions like maintaining functional smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Even moving around the home can be unsafe and areas of the house that they were once able to reach can become inaccessible.
For many older adults, these challenges are compounded by poverty. Statewide, there are approximately 58,510 seniors living below the poverty line. AARP reports that roughly 3 in 10 Minnesotans ages 65 or older rely solely on Social Security for their income. Living on fixed incomes and dealing with the mounting medical expenses that can occur as one grows older can prohibit seniors from hiring people to perform home maintenance for them. Sometimes family members are able to step in and help, but there are plenty of instances where they are unwilling or unable to do so.
Rebuilding Together Twin Cities works with a large clientele of seniors. Rebuilding Together is able to do those basic but critical tasks that low-income clients can’t physically do or afford to hire a traditional business to do for them, including everything from giving a home a fresh coat of paint to installing a new roof. Rebuilding Together’s Safe at Home program addresses the issue of safety by adapting the home to meet the needs of the residents who are older adults or are living with a disability. For seniors in need, the installation of grab bars, railings, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can make all the difference. Aging in place shouldn’t mean aging without help. This is one of the reasons Rebuilding Together Twin Cities exists. If you know of an older adult homeowner in need, please don’t hesitate to refer them to us. For more information, please visit www.rebuildingtogether-twincities.org.
This story was written by Kyle Sharp, a former AmeriCorps member with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities.