Celebrating Older Americans Month

Posted By: Melanie Campbell News,

May is Older Americans Month. Coalition for Home Repair members have helped more than 70,000 low-income older Americans age in place.

Coalition members fill an important need in their local communities. 87% of adults age 65 or older want to age in their current home or community, according ot the AARP. However, only 3.5 percent of the US housing stock provides all three critical accessibility features—a no-step entry, single-floor living, and extra-wide doorways and halls—that help households with reduced mobility to live safely and comfortably in their homes. (JCHS 2021 State of the Nation’s Housing Report).

Over 15 million older adults aged 65+ are economically insecure, with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level (NCOA). For low-income households, self-funding modifications such as a low-step shower or an accessibility ramp, might not be possible. Coalition members help these households access critical repairs, modifications, and wraparound services at little or no cost to the families - filling an important, growing need.

Aging in Place programs reduce risk of injury due to falls. An equally important outcome is people remain in community and maintain quality of life. Repairs and modifications protect independence. 

Our goal is always to create safer, healthier homes. Repairs play an important part - so do home modifications. Modifications help bridge the gap between what a person can do and what a person is required to do. Bridging this gap is what makes a safer home possible. A person is more likely to change their behavior than their environment. 

Here’s how this may play out for an older adult whose home does not meet their needs:

The only bathroom is on the second floor of a home.

Stairs are burdensome.

A person chooses to shower less frequently in order to avoid the physical burden of taking the stairs.

If a bedroom is upstairs, someone may be more likely to sleep on the couch.

These choices begin to be made repeatedly. At some point, choices may be made to forego medical care because taking stairs to leave the home for a doctor’s visit becomes too burdensome.

Many adult children become primary caretakers for aging parents, investing in labor for no pay. They join the ranks of the 53 million other adults caring for an adult loved one in the United States. When a family experiencing generational poverty enters this phase of life, wealth built by a younger generation is often invested back into the family. This could come at the opportunity cost of other investments or income such as taking early retirement or foregoing a second job. 

Modifications for older Americans go beyond just a risk of falls - it can protect generational wealth.

Raising awareness for health and housing services for older adults is a priority for the Coalition. In addition the Coalition will seek resources and invest in professional development for employees of home repair organizations who serve older adults. In 2022, the Coalition funded Certified Aging in Place Specialist certifications for 42 home repair providers. In 2023, the Coalition plans to fund additional CAPS certifications thanks to a grant from the Edward & Wanda Jordan Family Foundation. The application will be available in August for a self-paced cohort.

If your organization wants to feature the impact you have for older Americans, here are some ideas: 
  • Share a testimonial (or 2 or 3!) of an older adult program participant.

  • Share relevant local data to make a case for investment in aging-in-place programs. 

  • Interview an older adult volunteer to highlight skills-based volunteer opportunities.

  • Spotlight staff with relevant credentials, like CAPS, on social media to build credibility for your program.

  • Ask donors or volunteers to participate in a virtual aging simulation.

  • Thank a funder passionate about aging in place on social media or send a timely thank you note.

Content for this blog post was developed with member organization, Rebuild Upstate.