Utility Service Partners, Inc.

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Aging in Place

Home Maintenance is a key factor for aging Americans wishing to remain in their own homes

According to U.S. Census data, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to rise 35 percent from 2010 to 2020, and a growing trend for this population is “aging in place.” A comprehensive study on this subject by AARP explains,

this means to grow old in the home where one raised children or in another non-institutional setting in the community. During a lifetime, people develop connections to place and form relationships with neighbors, doctors, hairdressers and shopkeepers. They become intimately familiar with the route to downtown, the rhythm of summer concerts at the band shell park, the best places to get a coveted burger and personalized greeting. These associations, of value to both the individual and the community, cannot be quickly or easily replicated in a new environment. In essence, they can play a pivotal role in successful aging.”

A group of Georgia Institute of technology researchers conducted a comprehensive study of how aging affects one’s ability to perform home maintenance tasks. This study explored the issues that older adults have with maintaining their home and issues that they might foresee in performing those tasks in the future. The researchers also investigated the services, products, technologies, and remodeling options older adults considered or used that could help them.

There were 44 participants between the ages of 66 and 85 and they conducted 11 group interview sessions. They were asked to fill out a Background Questionnaire and Technology Experience Questionnaire at home and return them to the experimenter at the time of the interview.

From the interview responses, the researchers developed a list of the most difficult home maintenance activities. These included cleaning, outdoor, home upkeep, repair, indoor update/remodel, movement within the home (specific to performing maintenance tasks), and other.  The vast majority of the commentary related to these difficult categories.

The total number of comments made by participants that were related to difficult home maintenance tasks was 316; nearly 70% were cleaning-related or outdoor-related. Difficult tasks categorized as cleaning included vacuuming, tidying, changing bed linens, washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning the toilet, taking out the garbage, and general cleaning. Outdoor tasks included mowing the lawn, painting the outside of the home, cleaning the gutters, or general outdoor tasks.

An additional 16% of the difficult tasks mentioned were categorized as home upkeep. This category of tasks included HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) maintenance (e.g., changing or replacing the furnace filter), pest control, replacing light bulbs, roof replacement, and maintenance of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

The study concludes that:

“These results present opportunities for interventions that can help older adults remain independent in their homes longer. By understanding the nature of home maintenance problems older adults encounter while aging in place, as well as their solutions for managing difficult home maintenance tasks, interventions and redesign efforts can be more effective and address the areas of greatest need. To that end, home service providers, technology developers, home designers, and senior agencies can enable aging in place.”

Home warranty companies provide home services that can address several important aspects of safely aging in place:

Proactive attention to a problem – a person with a plan is more apt to call for service on a small problem before the issue becomes worse, and potentially dangerous. Once on-site contractors can check other systems to ensure there are no additional issues and if any are discovered they can be fixed immediately.

Expeditious response – while it may take days for a contractor from the phone book to arrive, a home protection plan company has a defined and short response time

Careful screening/vetting – home protection plans provide consumers access to fully-vetted, licensed and insured local contractors.  This dramatically reduces the risk related to allowing a stranger into one’s home, particularly for elderly people living alone.

The National League of Cities (NLC) Service Line Warranty Program (SLWP), administered by USP, a HomeServe company, was conceived in partnership with the National League of Cities to educate property owners about their service line responsibilities and to help residents avoid the out-of-pocket expense for unanticipated and potentially costly service line repairs and replacements. The NLC SLWP can bring home repair programs backed by world class service to your residents. Learn more about how a partnership can benefit your municipality at http://www.utilitysp.net.