Aging-in-place: Seniors can stay in own homes<

Baby Boomers are finally getting old, and their parents have already reached their sunset years. But Boomers - as with so many other facets of life - aren't satisfied with aging they way it used to be done, according to numerous organizations and businesses that took part in the "Aging in Place Resource Fair" at the Seattle Center on Nov. 13.

For example, instead of ending up in retirement or nursing homes, Boomers would prefer that they and their parents be able to stay in their own houses or apartments. There are a number ways to do that, and there are a growing number of companies and programs that will help.

For instance, a new Issaquah company called On-Call Alert will allow those with medical conditions to stay in their residences, said company rep Jennifer Pomeroy.

The device is a button worn on a necklace, and pushing the button connects to a monitoring station that contacts a central office through phone lines.

The button also switches on a microphone on the monitoring station, allowing the person to talk to staff at the central office, Pomeroy said. "It can cover most seniors in single-story houses," she said of the system's range.

The system also can be set up so that a family member can join in on a three-way call if there is an emergency, Pomeroy said, and the company will maintain a medical profile with information about the client, providing "whatever information the individual would like to give."

Pomeroy said her own mother had a hip replacement, and she helped set up the company because there was nothing like it locally. "It's popular with Baby Boomers who want their parents to age in place," she said.

Boomers are also the focus of financial companies such as AXA Advisors, according to company rep Jesse Franklin. "They really don't want to think about retirement."

One area that has received a lot of attention lately in financing for long-term care, he said. "There's a lot of buzz about that," Franklin added. "It could pay for home-care services, that sort of thing."

Finances for the aging is also the goal of the Assistive Technology Access Fund, said staffer Hillary Rossi. "We provide low-interest loans for people with disabilities for assistive technology people need to live independently," she said.

The loans can be used to buy, among other things, hearing aids, hand controls and lifts for vehicles, ramps and modifications for bathrooms and kitchens, according to the organization's flier.

"I think there's going to be a growing demand [for the loans]," added Francis Denelle. Part of the group's mandate is to serve low-income clients, but the organization also server seniors. Sometimes that's an uphill battle, though. "Seniors often don't believe they have disabilities," she noted.

Making homes senior-friendly drew a number of other businesses to the resource fair. One of them was Rodda Paint, which sells a line of "Green Seal Certified Paint."

The specialty paints are mold- and mildew-resistant, and they are 99.6 percent free of Volatile Organic Compounds, which combine with air to form ozone, said company rep Ron Hankinson. "It's good for people with allergies and anybody with respiratory problems," he said.

Companies such as Able Environments, LLC are also taking note of the potential market for aging customers, said Rick Spellman. "What we're trying to do is fill a void in the real-estate world," he said.

"Few new homes are built to aging-in-place standards," Spellman said. "We try to look for houses that can be remodeled." Work to make the homes senior- and handicapped-accessible includes such things as widening doorways and lowering kitchen counters for people who use wheelchairs, he said.

However, Spellman stressed, the remodeled homes don't look like handicapped housing. For example, he said, adding an alcove in a hallway allows people in wheelchairs to more easily turn corners, but the alcove looks like part of the home's design.

Tenhulzen Remodeling Inc. is taking the same approach, said Michael Tenhulzen, but there's a difference. He's a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) and went through special training.

The National Association of Homebuilders got together with the American Association of Retired Persons to gauge the needs of aging Baby Boomers, Tenhulzen said of the reason the CAPS program was formed. "People who need assistance in their later years also want to keep their homes," he noted.

Pete Downing from Ramp Arts was also at the resource fair. "We consider our [ramp] systems to be durable goods, as opposed to home renovations," he said. Downing also wondered why doctors will prescribe wheelchairs, but not ramps for disabled patients.

Financing for ramps can be provided by Labor and Industries, the Veterans Administration, the city and DSHA, he said. "Sometimes they provide part of the funding; sometime they provide all of the funding."

Some homes are built with spaces that can be used later to install an elevator, said Spellman from Able Environments. But most aren't, noted Bud Conry, a rep from American Elevator Corp.

"Pretty much we can accommodate any kind of disability, inside of out," he said of a range of products that can include stair lifts, wheelchair elevators and even dumb waiters. "We can suit just about anybody's budget."

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