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Program helps Ashland seniors make homes safer

Roughly one in five Ashlanders potentially could benefit from a new city program offering help to make seniors residences safer.

According to a survey taken from 2011-2015 on the city website, 20.3 percent of the population is over the age of 65.

So the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved new Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief Michael D’Orazi’s suggestion Ashland adopt a program he participated in previously in another city – a program dedicated to helping seniors and the disabled make modifications to their residences to ensure safe accessibility.

Linda Reid, housing program specialist, said the importance of this program is to prevent fall prevention.

“Since Jan. 1 through the end of July, we’ve had 342 responses for falls, so that can kind of give you an idea of why this is an important part to try and mitigate that,” D’Orazi said.

Kelly Madding, city administrator, said the Housing and Human Services Commission recommended $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds be allocated to provide grants of up to $5,000 to residents who are at least 62 years old and/or disabled persons meeting income requirements for safety and mobility improvements in their homes.

Improvements include installation of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, raised toilet seats, grab bars, widening of interior and exterior entrances and providing wheelchair ramps, etc.

“Staff is working with Home Depot, who have agreed to provide materials at reduced costs to further help leverage the CDBG money,” Madding said. “Ashland Fire and Rescue will be staffing that project and will retain 10 percent for administrative costs.”

Councilor Jackie Bachman said she fully supports this program.

“I know we have seniors out there that do need to have smaller projects done in their houses, and this is a wonderful program,” Bachman said.

Once one of the program partners — The Ashland Fire & Rescue Housing Safety Program for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities, the Ashland Community Development Department or Age Friendly Innovators — are contacted, a specialist will provide an in-home evaluation.

Once accessibility and needs are determined and an estimate given, then the materials will be purchased, and the maintenance will be provided, as well as annual follow ups.

Sharon Johnson, executive director of Age Friendly Innovators, said the organization has seen an excessive number of calls and, because the organization is entirely volunteer-run, the need for more funding was substantial.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

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