Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Volunteers in Maine are providing free basic services to allow rural seniors to age at home

Volunteer Dave Brown, 75, insulates the floor
of a house in coastal Maine (Stateline photo)
As Maine's large rural population ages, volunteer groups have popped up to provide services to allow seniors to remain at home as they age, Jenni Bergal reports for Stateline. One group, Harpswell Aging at Home, which includes many seniors, does home repairs for free, such as insulation, repairing damaged floors or doors, sealing foundations, installing rain gutters and storm windows and fixing fire hazards. Other groups offer rides, donate fresh fruits or vegetables or help give caregivers a break.

These are much-needed services that can be a model for any state, Bergal writes. The number of seniors 65 and older in the U.S. is expected to reach 77 million by 2035, up from 48 million now. One-third of Maine's population is expected to be older than 65 by 2032.

"Local governments cannot afford to pay for all the services needed to help seniors stay in their homes. State governments face the same dilemma," Bergal writes. "And retrofitting a house for aging people can be expensive. It can cost $800 to $1,200 to widen a doorway to accommodate a wheelchair, $1,600 to $3,200 for a ramp, and up to $12,000 for a stair lift. That’s what makes Maine’s growing volunteer network so valuable."

Jess Maurer, executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said more than 60 communities have started, or are in the process of starting, programs to help seniors age in their homes, Bergal writes. Maurer told her, “There isn’t enough money in Maine to deal with this problem. It’s going to have to be community by community, using volunteers and public and private resources.”

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