Aging In Place (And How To Afford It)

In our culture, aging is often portrayed as a slow decline toward loss. You lose your looks, your ability to dance a jig, and even your teeth. While some of these things are true, looking at getting older as a bad thing is simply one side of the coin. On the other hand, older people are imbued with wisdom from a lifetime of living and won’t be making the same mistakes as their younger counterparts. While they may wish to be young again, they have much to be truly grateful about. They have already sailed past the accumulation phase in their life and likely own a house, car, and multiple other assets.

While finally owning your own house comes with a bit of relief, especially in your golden years, it inevitably leads to maintenance and upkeep. No matter what age you purchase a home, you cannot avoid keeping your house in working order. Everything from sewer repair to house painting is on the table, and this is the implicit agreement that many people make with themselves once they buy a home. This is fine when you have a job and are making money, but what about if you’re retired and living on a fixed income? Problems can arise unless help is provided for you, and some of these can become life-threatening.

In this article, we’ll discuss how the Baltimore County Department Of Aging came up with a unique solution to this problem in the form of free home repair programs. While it does come with some qualifiers that not all seniors will meet, it does a good job at trying to address the problem for those that are truly in need. Instead of having to deal with bankruptcy agencies or worse when a house is condemned, it can stay in good condition until the senior inside is ready to sell it or pass it on to a family member. This is a win-win for everyone involved. We’ll also touch on ways to keep your home repair costs low if you don’t qualify for such a program. There’s something for everyone in here, so pay attention!

How Baltimore County Benefited Its Seniors Gracefully

Instead of leaving its seniors to fend for themselves, Baltimore County, MD has decided to allocate some of their tax money to keep seniors in their homes. Recently, the Baltimore County Department Of Aging launched a new program that allows some residents who are 65 and older the opportunity for home repairs or safety modifications to their home, free of charge. It is one of many free home repair programs across the country that tries to address the natural income disparity between the working and the retired by allocating money towards home repairs for older people. Many of these individuals are included in the overall U.S. poverty rate of 10.5%

Baltimore County’s program, called “The “BCAUSE program” is a multi-agency collaboration between the Baltimore County Department of Aging, Civic Works, Rebuilding Together Baltimore, CHAI and Dundalk Renaissance. As far as free home repair programs go, it is decently robust and provides for up to $4,500 of home repairs or safety modifications so that seniors can age gracefully in place. To be eligible for the program, a senior needs to be 65 and older while being at 50 percent or lower of the median income. Obviously, you will need to provide proof of residence and go through the proper channels in order to be looked at or considered for this money.

Not all individuals will qualify for this program, but those that do will be able to once again age gracefully in their homes instead of having to go elsewhere. This allows them to stay in a familiar space, get physical rehabilitation services in their home as they age, get shipments or medications delivered, and more. Instead of having to move from their home to a nursing establishment or other unfamiliar space, they can stay where they are. Because a home is more than just a place for your stuff, it is a basket full of memories and a space to live your life. Especially if you have relatives or grandchildren that live nearby.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For A Senior Discount

One of the best things about getting older, besides possibly qualifying for free home repair programs, is the coveted “senior discount.” Not only does this discount usually apply at any time of the day, but it’s never over! Once you reach the age of 65 (or in some areas, 55), this is a lifelong discount that has the ability to drastically lower the cost of living and goods/services in a senior’s life.

Even when you call professional contractors to help with hvac repair services, or installing internet for your home, make sure to inquire about the senior discount. It is rare to encounter a company that does not have some sort of compensation mechanism set up for seniors to use their service, especially if they are a large corporation. What’s even better is knowing that even small to mid-size contractors care about seniors and will gladly take a percentage off their price to help out.

Being older has its privileges, so make sure to take full advantage of them. When you combine the senior discounts you receive with cash back credit cards or other advantaged forms of payment, you can take something that was formerly a large expense, such as garage door repair, and sometimes get up to 25% off of the final cost. To not take advantage of these savings when you live on a limited income is the real crime, so make sure to (or have someone you trust) look into it immediately.

Familiarize Yourself With Organizations And Programs That Help Seniors With Home Repairs

If you are a senior that does not live in Baltimore County and is not able to be helped with home repairs or more, don’t worry! No matter where you live, there is a nonprofit or volunteer organization that will give you free or reduced home repairs. Whether you are in need of a furnace repair service or simply someone to make sure your toilet works properly, someone will eventually be able to help. It is a part of being in such an interconnected world that there are people who want to help.

Organizations such as Rebuilding Together or the USDA’s Section 504 Home Repair program
make it so that seniors at truly low income levels never have to be truly destitute. Such free home repair programs make it so that you never have to fear about being without running water, air conditioning, or electricity ever again. Depending on your specific needs, you may be able to find HVAC services, plumbers, and carpenters through these programs and others. Make sure to check in your local area to see if their is an even smaller version that can give you personal attention and focus.

There are also specific free home repair programs, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, that focus on helping seniors with specific tasks. This would be an excellent program for someone that needs multiple air conditioning installations or is trying to make their energy bill go down. Sometimes these programs will even come to your home and replaces your existing energy system with another one that is more cost efficient and higher quality for little to no money. It is well worth investigating.

Another program you may want to look into is the Weatherization Assistance Program, especially if you live in an area with inclement weather or are in danger of it. Climate change has caused many formerly habitable areas to experience wild weather swings and cause damage to older homes. By participating in this program, you can help guard against that and get a professional assessment of how your home can be guarded against the extremes no matter where you live.

Pay Family Members (Especially Grandchildren) To Help You

When it comes to free home repair programs, nothing is better than family. Not only should they want to help you out if you have a good relationship with them, but “free” does not necessarily have to mean that you compensate them with nothing. Especially if you have a contractor or other skilled laborer in your family to consult, you may want to have a relative do work on your house. Even if it’s not top quality, they will be incentivized to do it correctly so that you are not put in harm’s way.

This is a great way to connect with your grandchildren, or allow your children to feel like they’re contributing toward your life. Simple activities like cleaning the rain gutters or sweeping up leaves can quickly become a game to children, and you can still “compensate” them with a whole bunch of cookies, writing down a family recipe, or heaping loads of love onto them. This can be a great way to connect with them, teach the value of money, and get some useful maintenance done in the process.

If you live in a neighborhood where you still know your neighbors, you can even offer your neighbors or their children compensation for landscaping or simple jobs. While this is technically not free, it will come at a reduced cost when compared to professional services, be free of taxation, and help solidify relationships in your local area should you ever need then. You may have even grown up with a similar arrangement, where older people mentored and helped you along as you grew up and learned the same lessons. Wouldn’t it be nice to do that for someone else?

If You Can Still Do It Yourself, Why Not?

For most of this article, we’ve talked about getting others involved to help you with free home repair programs or finding reduced costs through senior discounts. Yet, there are still many things that competent seniors can do for themselves if they still have full control of their health, wealth, and mind. Little things, such as pouring drain cleaner down the pipes of a clogged shower, replacing an air filter, or sweeping the driveway can actually be good physical and mental exercises for a senior to engage it.

If you’re worried that you’ll never be able to figure out how to do something, or don’t understand new home technology, then you’re also in luck. With the advent of YouTube and other video sharing sites, you can literally have someone right in front of you demonstrate how to do something without having to worry about them repeating themselves or getting frustrated. You truly can take your time watching videos, sometimes spending hours figuring out exactly how something works, before you attempt it to your satisfaction. This is a far cry from the days of old, when if you didn’t know something you had to look it up in a library!

Because of the growth of the internet and information sharing, you may even be able to find and connect with people on social media that would be glad to give an older person advice. Forums like Reddit can be very friendly toward answering questions from seniors and those that are truly in need, and you will get a much needed update on how people socially interact in the modern era. You may even receive answers from individuals your same age that you never would have connected with had it not been for social media. If you learn how to do something yourself or connect with others who do, that’s almost as good as participating in free home repair programs.

Take Help Where You Can Get It, And Thank Others When You Can

At the end of the day, everyone needs a bit of help now and then. Even if you’ve spent your entirely life working for yourself and taking responsibility, don’t be too proud to participate in free home repair programs if you are truly in need. To let your home lapse in maintenance or disintegrate would be a shame, especially since you worked so hard to purchase it and keep it up all these years.

In a manner of speaking, free home repair programs can also allow you to make new friends with local people in your community or government organizations in the area. Far from simply being professional encounters, you may feel grateful enough to these individuals to invite them back to your home for dinner or conversation. What started off as a professional engagement may end up being more than that down the road. You truly never know where life will lead you when it comes to relationships.

Finally, consider taking advantage of free home repair programs as a sort of investment in yourself and your health. By allowing yourself to stay at home and age gracefully, you reduce yourself to exposure to all sorts of risks that might be taken otherwise. From other sick individuals in nursing homes to not having full control over security at a public residence, remaining in your home is a hallmark of freedom and dignity that many seniors want to have until the end of their life. If you have the opportunity to, why not take full advantage of it?

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