Aging in Place: Everyone’s Right to Age with Dignity in Their Home
Since 2010 Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity has been committed to building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. With a clear vision that everyone deserves a safe, healthy home Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity expanded their Neighborhood Revitalization program to include Aging in Place which is a holistic approach to provide seniors with housing repairs while connecting them to resources and services in their community.
As Habitat for Humanity looks to the future we recognize that people are living longer and prefer to age in their homes and communities. According to a 2013 report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, 90 percent of older adults prefer to age in their own home and community. Currently, 40 million Americans are 65 and older with a projection of 70 million by 2030 (1 in 5 Americans).
Aging in Place Efforts
Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity is currently part of a national movement to enable seniors to age with dignity in a safer/healthier home. As part of this holistic approach, Northern Ocean Habitat brings the spirit of community into the seniors’ homes. Through the engagement of local schools (intergenerational service learning), civic service organizations, businesses, faith leaders, non-profits and municipality leaders Habitat can become the “community connector” enabling the senior to obtain other necessary resources such as food, emotional, mental or spiritual support, medical, clothing etc. Currently, Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity is part of a coalition of organizations in Ocean County that are working together to build a healthier Toms River which includes the elimination of senior isolation.
In 2012 Super Storm Sandy slammed the Jersey shore leaving many senior citizens homeless. Northern Ocean Habitat stepped up and successfully rebuilt 60 homes for low-income residents of which many were over 65. The realization that we had the capacity and construction knowledge to embark upon an expanded construction program was the catapult for the creation of the Aging in Place Program. Research provided by the National Council on Aging states that many senior citizens are economically insecure (over 25 million) and that one-third of senior households have no money left over each month or are in debt after meeting essential expenses.
More Than Just a Build
Aging in Place goes beyond construction and housing to include building partnerships, advocating for a livable community for people of all ages, and networking with other service providers. Habitat’s role is transformative! As the construction team installs grab bars, expands doorways, replaces old tubs with shower installs and builds ramps the power of volunteerism resonates through the house and the community. Residents come out of their homes rejoicing in the fact that their neighbors have help and inquiring about the application process. Many that struggle with isolation feel safe and secure seeking assistance from Habitat for Humanity.
As part of Habitat for Humanity’s commitment to being a “hand up” not a “hand out” homeowners are required to engage in “sweat equity” (referred to as “service of presence” for our Aging In Place Program). Ultimately the goal is to have our homeowners engaging with our volunteers and staff through simple acts of kindness such as preparing lunch for the volunteers. By the time we are ready to leave and pull out the Habitat trucks trust has been developed, stories have been shared, new friendships made and ultimately a healthier community has emerged.