Home Repairs Loom Large for Low-Income Seniors

by June 8, 2015

Curline Wilmoth (center) received help from Rebuilding Together Boston to make the bathroom in her Boston home more wheelchair-accessible. She is flanked by daughters Yvonne, left, and Doreen. (Sandra Larson/Bay State Banner)

BOSTON–In Boston’s largely Caribbean and African American Mattapan neighborhood, the family of Curline Wilmoth, 67, has been struggling to care for her after she suffered a debilitating stroke in 2010 and had to leave her job as a hospital housekeeper.

Then, as happens too often when an elder returns from a hospital, Wilmoth and her family found she couldn’t safely move in or around her home. For instance, her wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the bathroom door. And family members had to carry the chair down and up the front steps each time Wilmoth went to the doctor or to senior center programs.

Increasing–and More Diverse–Elders

The rapidly aging United States population, especially in metropolitan areas like Boston, means that an increasingly nonwhite population of older adults with lower lifetime earnings and scant assets will grow.

In particular, ethnic elders, who tend to fall on the lower side of racial wealth and income gaps, are finding themselves unable to cover unanticipated expenses, such as home repairs or modifications, necessary for their safety. Retired homeowners on a fixed income needing a new roof or major plumbing repair, for instance, can face the dilemma that advocates in aging call being “house rich, but cash poor.”

“We know the need continues to grow,” said Sandra Henriquez, CEO of Rebuilding Together, based in Washington, D.C. But home-repair assistance is out there, if seniors know where to look, she said.

Seniors continued on page 4

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