Living Senior: The Partnership Between AARP and Rebuilding Together
Today, Edith of Alexandria, Va. is thankful for a group of community citizens who, in 1986, noticed a major problem and became the solution. With the city’s lack of a program offering free home repairs to low-income residents, these individuals created its Rebuilding Together affiliate (RTA), in which their main concern was the well-being of the elderly, disabled, and families with children.
Existing in all 50 states, Rebuilding Together is the nation’s largest volunteer home rehabilitation organization and is only strengthening with the help of an association also dedicated to benefiting others. In 2006, AARP joined hands with Rebuilding Together – a collaboration with the goal of ensuring that individuals like Edith could age in place comfortably and safely.
With their partner, AARP is able to affect a lasting change for families and their surrounding communities and address the concern of an aging America and its aging housing stock.
“This is a great organization,” said Edith, “I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.”
While growing up in Halifax County, Edith worked on a sharecropping farm. After marrying her husband in 1961, she had five children and also raised six step-children. In 1991, Edith faced the saddening death of her husband, but it would only be a few years until a new group of friends entered her life.
Rebuilding Together and now AARP have been making a number of trips to Edith’s home. Volunteers from either organization can be skilled volunteers who specialize in a particular area or unskilled laborers who can assist in other ways. Other positions include the house captain who is responsible for the management of the project, a safety coordinator and volunteer coordinator. According to Katharine Medina, director of the Alexandria affiliate, the team that worked on Edith’s home helped install attic insulation, replaced light fixtures throughout the home, secured a handrail for the stairs, while replacing the kitchen countertop and sink pipes.
“They put bars above the bathtub and along the side, which was great for me,” she said, “Getting in the tub would be a disaster if I didn’t have those.”
These are just a few examples of the changes Edith saw inside her home, but among the adjustments made outside they installed a new front door, fixed brick cracks near the chimney, and replaced several pieces of siding.
“My life has changed so much,” said Edith referring to the contributions of the two organizations.
For every dollar donated to RTA, the program leverages four times that amount in community donations and volunteer labor.
“I was trying to get the money together to get these things fixed,” said Edith, “But they came right in and did it for me.”
Edith and her neighbors that can now age in their homes will soon be joined by even more people touched by the services of RTA and AARP. The two organizations joined together to do some modifications to St. Martin’s Senior Center in Alexandria. In the second year of their partnership with Rebuilding Together, AARP has made a commitment for the year as they expect to have 54 home rebuilds in 13 states.
“I am proud to be a recipient of it,” said Edith, “I truly am.”