Imagine a day when you can’t grip a rake or are too unsteady to climb a ladder. How will you climb steps or safely exit your shower? Aging can be hard to think about, but with good fortune, we will all have the privilege to grow old—and have the opportunity to ask for help when we need it.
Mark, one of our recent clients, spent his career in construction and was handy around the house. But that work is hard on the body and a back injury changed everything for Mark. He moved from heavy labor on home exteriors—mostly working on foundations and framing—to gentler, interior tasks until the day his body couldn’t do it anymore. For the past few years, Mark has been getting by on social security disability.
“It wasn’t a great time in my life,” Mark says. “When my roof started leaking, I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Frustrated he couldn’t take care of the problem himself and on a limited income, Mark didn’t see many options for the needed repairs. Thankfully, a friend suggested Tacoma Habitat’s Aging in Place program. While initially skeptical about qualifying, Mark, as a low-income senior, was actually a great match for the donor-funded program which provides low-cost repairs and environmental modifications for Pierce County homeowners age 60+.
Following intake, our Aging in Place team visited Mark’s home for an assessment and deemed the job a straightforward tear-off and roof replacement. We just needed a spell of dry weather and some helping hands to pull it off.
Enter a little Habitat magic… a crew of 20 Collegiate Challenge volunteers were coming to town to serve with Tacoma Habitat as an alternative Spring Break. And, the weather the week of their visit looked clear and dry.
“I had a great time with the college kids,” says Mark, who came out to chat with the volunteers and watch them work.
He hoped he didn’t make them nervous by watching. “These days I’m just kind of starved for things to do.”
In creating our Aging in Place program, we had seniors just like Mark in mind—folks that spent most of their lives as the helpers and who now find themselves the ones in need of a helping hand. For many seniors, their home is their security; it is peace and comfort, and likely, the most affordable place for them to live.
“The college kids, Peter and Virginia [Habitat’s repair staff] … you just don’t meet people like that anymore,” shares Mark. “Finding this program was God’s blessing, such a relief on my part. I can’t thank you enough.”
When we opened enrollment for Aging in Place, we knew from our research that there was tremendous unmet need across Pierce County. But we couldn’t imagine that in the first six months of service delivery, we would exceed the number of jobs projected for the entire year. Our most common projects are ramp installations, roof repair, modifications to porches and decks, installation of handrails, and weatherization. The average Aging in Place client is 70 years old; 26% are Veterans and 56% are widowed female heads of household.
More than half of our Aging in Place projects are funded by donors just like you. While the homeowners pay a modest portion of the project cost, the average job costs Tacoma Habitat $6,200 and the number of projects we take on is limited by the available funding. If you’d like to make a gift to help, you can do so here.