Thursday, August 25, 2011

Accessible Housing a Key for Seniors

One of our advocates published this article in the Amsterdam Recorder on August 20th. See below:


For the Recorder

When families search for a home they often consider each person’s needs. Families with children often seek a home with a backyard and good schools nearby. Those that do not have a car frequently look for proximity to public transportation. When a family member uses a wheelchair, families may seek accessible housing, but in upstate New York, such homes and apartment are difficult to locate. Needed modifications to existing house and apartments are often too costly for seniors and those with modest incomes. Unfortunately, this situation can force many disabled and senior residents into unsafe and inaccessible housing or to be placed unnecessarily in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

According the New York State Office for the Aging, the average cost for living in a nursing home is around $71,000. In contrast the cost to help support someone in their own home is approximately $13,000. Even accounting for differences in need, the necessity for creating more and better community options is clear.

Adults with Medicaid health coverage needing a high level of care may be able to receive services and supports in their own homes rather than receiving those services in institutional settings, like nursing homes. Created in part through the work of the Resource Center for Independent Living, New York State offers the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Medicaid Waiver program. Services provided under this program are individualized to keep costs low and only provide what the person really needs. Supports may include services such as personal care and help with shopping and cleaning, but can also include important housing supports such as rental assistance and home modifications such as ramps, wheelchair lifts, roll-in showers, and kitchen alterations to make the home more useable and safe.

Similarly, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s “Access to Home” program provides financial assistance through non-profits to property owners to modify existing apartments and homes for low and moderate income persons with disabilities. Changes to flooring, doorways, ramps, grab bars and other safety and access improvements allow people to remain in their home.

Despite the progress that has been made in providing more community-based options New York State still does not have the housing stock to meet the real needs of its community members. To make a difference in the lives of aging and disabled residents, a strong commitment to a long-term plan is needed to allow New Yorkers to “age in place”. By supporting initiatives that fund the construction of new accessible homes and apartments and the rehabilitation of existing housing, we ensure that people can find appropriate housing, despite mobility or cognitive impairments. Initiatives that assist with the cost of home repairs, mobility modifications, weatherization and maintenance services help to encourage the creation of more integrated stable communities where everyone is welcome and represents smart investments in social spending.