Safe At Home: It’s About A Community Network

Due to the lack of age-friendly homes in most towns and cities — those without steps, with doorways and hallways and lighting built to accommodate people with various abilities — most Baby Boomers who want to remain at home face modifications, ranging from simple changes like a taller toilet and a few grab bars to ramps and other more expensive changes. Two long-time nonprofit organizations striving to give all people a safe and healthy home are Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together. Both are well-known for their builds that help families own or repair homes. But each also has specific programs geared toward lower-income older adults who want to age in place, but may lack the financial means to do so.

Rebuilding Together

The mission of Rebuilding Together is to repair homes, revitalize communities, and rebuild lives. Its local chapters are responsible for working with homeowners and neighborhoods to revitalize communities. Its Safe at Home program for older adults and persons with disabilities provides no-cost home modifications to improve accessibility, reduce falls, increase independence and facilitate aging in place.

And the program works. A 2019 evaluation found that 45 percent of residents had fallen or had a close call before repairs, and nearly 70 percent said they had a “low chance” or “no chance” of future falls after repairs. Additionally, 9 in 10 felt less stressed about home repairs and maintenance thanks to the program. Safe at Home has a special program just for veterans and their families.

Rebuilding Together also works with communities in long-term recovery from natural disasters, helping to ensure safe homes for all residents.

As an officer and member of the National Board of Directors of Rebuilding Together for several years, I saw firsthand the dedication of committed volunteers and the inspiring impact their work had on neighborhoods and residents’ lives. 

Habitat for Humanity

Long an advocate for affordable housing and its critical role in strong and stable communities, Habitat’s Aging in Place program is a natural expansion of its services. Using a model called “Housing Plus,” local Habitat affiliates collaborate with human service organizations to evaluate individual needs and provide home repairs, modifications, and community services specific to each homeowner in order to preserve their home and their independence.

As with Rebuilding Together, Habitat’s model is person-centered and holistic, and goes beyond installing door handles and taller toilets. Prior to beginning work, two assessments are made:

  1. A health or human service professional listens and learns about the homeowner’s daily activities – how they pay bills, clean their homes, communicate with others, and run errands.
  2. A Habitat construction specialist evaluates the home to create a modification program unique to the individual.

The result is a plan of action unique to the homeowner(s).

CAPABLE in Mind and Deed

Much like other programs I’ve written about, the Habitat local affiliates work with area service agencies to not only perform home repairs and modifications, but connect homeowners with the health care and community resources they need to thrive.

Between 2018 and 2022, Habitat implemented a special CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders) pilot program across five Habitat chapters across the country. This theory-driven, evidence-based, client-directed, and home-based intervention was developed by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, and has been proven to increase community-dwelling older adults’ mobility, functionality, and capacity to “age in place” or “age in community.”
CAPABLE consisted of 10 home visits, including six visits by a trained occupational
therapist (OT), four visits by a trained registered nurse (RN), and minor home repairs done by a
handy worker. This team worked with the older adult to identify their priority goals and determined a four-to-six-month action plan. It included making home repairs and modifications, and connecting clients with health care services and community resources they needed. Results showed that older adults could more easily complete daily tasks, more safely and easily leave their homes, had significantly fewer falls, and had fewer incidences of depression.

This work at the intersection of health and human services, community networks, and Habitat is similar to other programs I’ve written about. Interestingly, the improvements in participants’ health and well-being also has been shown to save costs — for both the resident and the health care organizations that serve the resident. This is an especially key finding given the dire straits found in many health care agencies.

We Baby Boomers are committed to aging in place for as long as possible. Programs like Rebuilding Together and Habitat help ensure that all of us, regardless of income level, have a fair shot at doing it!  

Consider making a donation to these invaluable non-profit organizations: Habitat for Humanity; Rebuilding Together.

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

2 Comments

  1. Susan Stockard on March 7, 2023 at 11:15 am

    This is such helpful information. I’m grateful to learn of new resources, like CAPABLE. I didn’t know Habitat for Humanity was doing this. Thank you

    • Reese Fayde on March 20, 2023 at 12:59 pm

      It really is encouraging to see what is out there and increasing each year. Please pass along any info you find useful and I encourage you and others to share any first-hand experiences you have these programs.

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