Letter from the CEO: Aging-in-Place with Strength, Stability, and Self-Reliance

Dear Friend of Truman Habitat,

In recent years Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity has been making an important shift from the traditional model of new home construction to an approach that gives equal attention to neighborhood and housing reinvestment.  This shift has been necessary in part due to the rapidly declining owner-occupied housing stock that characterizes many of the neighborhoods we serve.  As the lead provider of homeownership assistance in Eastern Jackson County, Truman Habitat has found that one of the greatest challenges it faces is the demand for assistance from senior homeowners that want to age-in-place, but lack the physical and financial ability to make needed home repairs and modifications.

In order to better meet this demand, Truman Habitat is working to develop an aging-in-place component for its existing Home Preservation Program which offers critical home repairs, weatherization services, and minor home improvements to fixed income homeowners.  In addition to evaluating the physical condition of the home, the aging-in-place evaluation will provide a holistic assessment of the homeowner’s individual needs and quality of life, and will identify and prioritize opportunities to improve their overall health and wellbeing.  From there Truman Habitat will work with community partners to connect the homeowner with services and opportunities that address their personal goals.

One important aspect of our aging in place approach is ensuring that participating seniors are engaged in an uplifting experience.  In keeping with Habitat’s principle of “a hand up, not a hand out” aging-in-place homeowners participating in the Home Preservation Program are given the dignity of contributing a modest amount of sweat equity hours in exchange for the home repairs and modifications they receive.  Sweat equity is a core tenet of Habitat and an invaluable tool in building a partnership with homeowners, affiliate staff members and volunteers. The term refers to the hands-on involvement of homeowners in Habitat’s work, giving families the opportunity to invest physically and emotionally in the ministry’s mission. Sweat equity opportunities are modified based on an individual’s abilities and limitations and can be earned for anything from swinging a hammer to writing thank you notes or baking cookies for fellow volunteers.  Creative sweat-equity activities serve as an important vehicle for connecting older adults who might live alone or feel socially isolated.  And by inviting these individuals to come work side-by-side with Habitat’s regular volunteers the larger community is given the opportunity to see first-hand the importance of engaging and investing in our older neighbors.

The success of Habitat for Humanity’s global housing model can undoubtedly be attributed to the transformative power that comes from bringing volunteers of all ages together to build community and hope.  When it comes to volunteers, Truman Habitat for one has been truly blessed to count seniors among its most loyal, dependable, hardworking and skilled.  It’s always a pleasure to be able to share the story of how many of our most loyal Habitat volunteers first joined our Habitat family as homeowner partners in pursuit of strength, stability and self-reliance.


Christina Leakey

President and CEO

Photos below:

Mildred—before receiving assistance through THHFH’s Home Preservation Program, Mildred was forced to crawl into the crawl space under her home to change her furnace filter every season.  This HVAC appliance replacement was truly a life-saver.

Buddy—faithful ReStore volunteer (photo taken by Anthem Photography)