Monday, December 15, 2008

Economic downturn takes toll on adequate, accessible housing for older people

A few paragraphs from an in-depth story the Arizona Daily Star. In the picture, retired actress Francesca Jarvis navigates her living room crowded with medical aids, magazines and personal items.

For many of the more than 135,000 senior citizens in Pima County, and millions more across the country, the plunging economy has taken a heavy toll. Not only have fixed incomes been stretched thin, but many elderly people have lost savings or were relying on the sale of their homes to move to assisted living or cover medical expenses. In a down market, they are suddenly stuck at home.

"We have been getting increased calls for assistance for more than a year," said Diana Edwards of the Pima Council on Aging. "When it comes to our seniors, I would say that this is the second year of a recession."

Pima Council on Aging has had more than 1,000 calls for assistance with major home repairs in the last fiscal year, but there are only enough funds for 40 homeowners, Edwards said.

Putting off maintenance can lead to a disastrous situation where homes and their elderly owners both fall into neglect, say real estate agents and those who work with older people.

"Often someone has just been subsisting for years, existing for years. You've got the carpet that is filthy. The windows are cracked. You've got all this maintenance that is needed," said Suzy Bourque, a caregiver specialist with Pima Council on Aging. "Maybe someone falls and breaks their hip; they end up not being able to return to their home. It takes several months to clean up the house. Who pays for that to prepare for the sale?"