New social enterprise helps Detroit seniors “age in place”

November 16th, 2016
Mattie Laster sits on the chair lift installed in her home through Metro In-Home Solutions.

Mattie Laster felt like a prisoner of her own upstairs. The pain in her legs was so severe that she could only make it down and up the stairs once a day, which she would do in the morning to get food from the kitchen.

Mattie is 86. She has lived in her home in northwest Detroit for 68 years. She is determined to stay there as long as possible, surrounded by the memories of raising eight children and the reassuring familiarity of a place and things that have become second nature.

However, for Mattie to continue to “age in place,” her home required modifications to accommodate her physical limitations. She especially needed a chair lift, though she could not afford to have one installed on her limited income.

Mattie is one of the first individuals assisted by a new Detroit-based social enterprise called Metro In-Home Solutions  (Metro IHS).  Metro IHS is a partnership of Southwest Solutions, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, and Hartford Community Development Corporation.

Metro IHS partnered with Fifth Third Bank and First Independence National Bank for the 2016 Accessibility Modifications Program (AMP). The AMP provides grants up to $15,000 to eligible low-income seniors and persons with disabilities for home modifications that enable them to live safely and independently in their homes. Metro IHS helps the homeowners complete their applications, assesses the needs in the home, determines the scope of work, solicits bids from qualified contractors, and then oversees the work.

Through Metro IHS, a chair lift was installed in Mattie’s home, as well as grabs bars and levered door handles. The modifications have significantly improved Mattie’s quality of life.

“I’m able to move around the house freely and take better care of myself,” Mattie said. “It’s lifted my spirits to feel truly at home again.”

Metro IHS began its work on homes in late fall and will complete work on 20 homes by the end of the year. The demand for the program is very high.

Research shows that more than 90% of all seniors would prefer to remain in their homes rather than move to senior living. Of course, there are those who, despite their preference, would be unable to “age in place” because their physical or cognitive challenges are prohibitive. Yet, many others would be able to stay in their homes if the appropriate modifications were made.

“The benefits of aging in place are significant for seniors and for society,” said Gary Gray, who directs Metro IHS. “Those benefits are well-documented. Seniors who are able to stay in their homes are happier, healthier and less susceptible to illness, more independent, and more connected to their family, friends and community. The cost of enabling seniors to age in place is a fraction of the cost for nursing home care,  assisted living or hospital stays. We as a society must do more to help seniors age in place.”

Metro In-Home Solutions installed a walk-in shower and handrails in the bathroom of Mattie Heard's home.

Metro In-Home Solutions installed a walk-in shower and grab bars in the bathroom of Mattie Heard’s home.

The 20 homes receiving home-modification grants this year were selected from applications processed by Fifth Third Bank/First Independence National Bank, who received the funds for the grants through the 2016 Accessibility Modification Program (AMP) administered by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis. The funds are exhausted for this year. Metro IHS looks forward to participating in the AMP next spring and hopes to modify at least 40 homes in metro Detroit in 2017.

Ultimately, the goal is to persuade “third party payers” (e.g. insurance companies, health plans, and governmental agencies) to pay for accessible home modifications. Enabling seniors to live safely and independently in their homes will benefit the seniors, their families, their communities, and the health care system.

The seed funding for Metro IHS was provided by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

To learn more about Metro IHS, email Gary Gray.

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