According to Dr. Jon Pynoos, professor of gerontology at USC, "research reveals that an overwhelming majority of people live in their own homes or apartments and would prefer to stay there." But as we get older, our ability to live independently in safe, affordable housing becomes a primary concern.
Many of the nation's 31 million seniors over age 65 do not have adequate housing, or they are "over-housed" in large homes with high upkeep, according to Don Fowles, statistician for the U.S. Administration on Aging. "Sometimes these people have to make choices between paying utility and home repair bills, buying sufficient food, or paying high medical expenses, particularly prescription drugs," Fowles said.
Several programs in Ventura County reflect the national trend to help seniors retain their independence. Some programs will even pay for home modification for the frail elderly, modifications that allow them to remain in their homes and follow their preferred lifestyle.
* Senior Home Sharing is a countywide program that matches seniors age 60 and older with other seniors or younger people who want to share housing. Home sharing helps seniors to eliminate both loneliness and the high cost of housing. It also allows homeowners to remain in their own residences.
Applicants are interviewed and matched according to mutual needs. The name and phone number of the "home provider" is given to the "home seeker," who then has the responsibility to contact the other person. The people involved privately arrange details concerning services and payment of rent.
For details, residents of Ventura should call (805) 653-5592. If you live elsewhere in the county, contact the Area Housing Authority of Ventura County at 1-800-800-2123, Ext. 226.
* Senior Property Tax Assistance. If you are a senior age 62 and older with an income less than $13,200 per year, you may be eligible to apply annually for a refund of a portion of the property taxes you paid on your home. For details call the California Franchise Tax Board 1-800-852-5711.
* Property tax deferrals are available to eligible seniors age 62 and older by calling the Ventura County assessor's office. In some cases taxes are deferred until the property is sold. Call (805) 654-2181.
* The Housing Rehabilitation Program provides low- or deferred-interest loans to eligible senior homeowners to make necessary modifications or repairs to their homes to ensure the health and safety of the occupants. This often involves work on the roof, electrical wiring or plumbing. Call (805) 482-2791.
There are several sites around the county where seniors age 62 and older can get free help to complete application forms for renter-homeowner assistance and/or property tax postponement or refunds. Call your local senior center for referrals.
* "The Do-able Renewable Home, No. 12470" is a free booklet that contains many suggestions for home safety modifications for the disabled and frail elderly. It also has a list of resources for services. Write: AARP Fulfillment, 1909 K St., Washington, D.C. 20049, or call (202) 872-4700.
* Habitat For Humanity is a national nonprofit housing corporation that helps eligible people with the costs of home repair. In Ventura County about 25% of its beneficiaries are seniors. For details call 648-4646.
Some cities in the county also offer local home rehabilitation and renter's assistance. For resources in your town call the city hall.
* Subsidized, low-cost senior apartments are available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Seniors age 62 and older can apply through the Ventura County Housing Authority to live in subsidized, low-cost rental housing exclusively for seniors. Those who qualify must have a maximum adjusted annual income of $15,800 if single, and $18,100 if married. There is at least a two-year waiting list. Some people who have already left their own homes have discovered that home sharing is a good stopgap until a subsidized apartment becomes available. Call 1-800-800-2123, Ext. 226.
* The Section Eight Housing Assistance Payment Program helps supplement an eligible senior's rent payment for a home, apartment or mobile home. The same qualifications apply as for the HUD program. Call 1-800-800-2123, Ext. 226.