Seniors' Home Repair Person The Buzz


As North America's baby boomers age, the job market is bound to respond. Already, various levels of government are working to meet the needs of seniors.

All over Canada and the U.S., a trend in home repair is growing. Nonprofit and government resources have created programs to aid seniors as their needs change.

Living in homes not designed to accommodate wheelchairs or progressive disabilities can be frustrating. Aging homeowners are creating a niche market in home repair.

The population is getting older. In general, people are living longer. They are also staying in their own homes longer. That means that renovations that make their homes more adaptable are essential.

A number of nonprofit groups partially funded by government have been popping up throughout the U.S. There is even a group called ElderCare that runs a 1-800-phone line designed to refer callers to services for seniors in their area.

Ron Byrne started a membership organization called Umbrella of the Capital District. The 80 employees do contracting for more than 500 elderly and disabled homeowners.

Byrne began the company when he realized that seniors move out of their homes because there is too much physical work and it is too costly to keep up.

"Umbrella economically performs those chores that member homeowners can no longer do for themselves, including a preventative maintenance routine designed to identify and repair basic items before they erupt into costly, major repairs."

Byrne provides emergency services 24 hours a day, every day. "If a pipe bursts, a window breaks or the furnace won't start, trained Umbrella staff are ready and able to help correct the problem. In fact, handymen are sent to the member's home within 90 minutes of being called."

In Midland, Texas, Saul Herrera is the director of the retired senior volunteer program at the Community and Senior Services nonprofit agency. Aside from the Meals on Wheels program, the agency offers a similar service for repairs.

This homebound service is a handyman program, offering minor repairs for those who qualify. "They have to own their own home and have to be either disabled or 60 years of age."

Herrera says two part-time workers and a variety of volunteers address safety issues. They install grab bars, door hinges, locks and wheelchair ramps.

Herrera isn't aware of contractors specializing in this type of service. But he wouldn't be surprised if they started popping up.

"You could take it to the extreme. We've done events where we've partnered with a building supply company. They provided their staff and we provided them with clients. So they'd go in and do the work. We get businesses to come in and supply the manpower or the supplies which are always so costly."

Herrera says letting seniors know you're safe to have in their home will be key for success.

"There's always a risk involved with having somebody come in, especially for seniors, even though these are professional people....But if they see it as something they can take advantage of, I think it's going to be more used by a lot of different people."

Shelley Campbell is a client services representative at a housing office. She says contractors specializing in home repair and renovations for seniors may become a future trend.

Campbell's office deals directly with requests from seniors interested in modifying their homes. According to Campbell, common requests include the installation of grab bars in bathrooms or the construction of a wheelchair ramp.

Renovations designed to make the home safer and more accessible are required, not cosmetic. "The program is geared to meet physical and medical needs of seniors. They don't necessarily have to be disabled. Things like arthritis or any degenerative or age-related condition," says Campbell.

Links

Home Repairs for the Elderly
Read about one program