Rebuilding Together Sacramento
L to R: Arnold Mendes, Stan Jones, Sandy Econome, David Grantham, Phyllis Franklin, Ed Stone, Dave Willis and Carl Hammer - Photo by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
In El Dorado County, senior falls account for one in 10 ambulance calls, and Marshall Hospital’s Emergency Room saw a 33-percent increase in them between 2011 and 2013 alone. Nationwide, falls are the leading cause of accidental death among people over 65 years of age, and half of those accidents happen in the home.
At the heart of the problem is an aging population that lives in homes unsuited to their mobility needs. An estimated 57 percent of houses in the Sacramento metropolitan area are more than 30 years old and not equipped for the growing senior population. What makes the problem worse is that some of the area’s most vulnerable homeowners struggle both physically and financially—meaning they’re unable to hire someone to install safety aids or they don’t know anyone reliable to do the work.
Enter Rebuilding Together, a nationwide nonprofit with more than 160 chapters focused on improving the impact of unsafe housing for seniors, people with disabilities and families with children. Founded in Sacramento in 1991, the organization has repaired nearly 5,500 homes, as well as 92 non-profit facilities and other neighborhood resources.
“We receive many calls from seniors who don’t want to admit that they’re getting older and need some help. Unfortunately, many will experience a fall before they call us for help,” says Carrie Grip, executive director of Rebuilding Together Sacramento. “We always encourage people to plan ahead and install these safety aids before you need them.”
Rebuilding Together recently expanded its “Safe at Home” program to the western slope of El Dorado County to provide free repairs and modifications for local homeowners. These repairs—provided by trained volunteers—could include installation of grab bars, wheelchair ramps, railings and stairway modifications that can decrease the risk of falls as much as 50 percent.
These simple modifications also offer seniors another important benefit—they help enable residents to “age in place” or remain in their home safely as long as possible. It’s a much more attractive—and cost-effective—option for these citizens than uprooting their lives and moving to an assisted living facility.
There is an application process to get these free services—eligibility requirements vary for each program, but typically applicants must be homeowners and be a senior, caregiver, disabled, or a family with children, and must not exceed specified income levels.
For those wanting to help, Rebuilding Together is always looking for volunteers who enjoy knowing that their work helps someone live more safely. Volunteer opportunities run the gamut, from administrative help to assisting on the rebuilding projects inside and outside of El Dorado County. In Sacramento County, for example, Rebuilding Together organizes several Veteran-specific home repair events throughout the year, and holds a large “Rebuild Day” event in the spring and fall.