“Oh my,” gasped 87-year-old Lilia Kelley as she walked into the house she has owned since the 1970s. It was hardly recognizable; thanks to a $50,000 renovation donated by the national public service organization 3in4 Need More and sponsored by One Reverse Mortgage.
Kelley’s son and primary caregiver John Simich entered the contest for a home makeover to update the house and provide safe amenities for seniors last year, and was stunned when he discovered he was the winner. The makeover was a complete surprise to Kelley, who was away for two weeks until the unveiling last Friday.
Dr. Marion Somers, spokeswoman for 3in4 Need More and an expert in elder care, has traveled across the country in her retro Greyhound bus to raise awareness of the need for better care for America’s senior citizens.
Somers said that more than 70% of Americans past the age of 65 will need long-term care services as they get older, which can cost thousands of dollars each month.
“Many times, people don’t know what is available to them,” Somers said. “That’s my goal — to have this happen more across America.”
For Simich and his mother, this gift means the hope of a better and easier life together.
“They came in here to make my mom’s life a whole lot easier,” Simich said. “I was laid off about a year ago, so it’s been kind of rough. I’ve tried to maintain the house and her living conditions, but this opportunity arose and I accepted it with open arms.”
Simich, who moonlights as “Fifi La Rue” in a Kiss tribute band, added that the house was not in the proper condition for an elderly woman suffering from the early signs of dementia.
When 3in4 Need More stepped in to help, they also sought the assistance of Freidmans Appliances owner Bob Atkins, who donated a brand-new General Electric washer and dryer to the home.
“GE donated the products, and we facilitated the installation,” Atkins said. “I believe we have a huge crisis in this country with 72 million people in this country coming up underneath us, who are all baby boomers, and there’s no one who will be able to take care of them. We need to learn how to do this in the home.”
Not only did Kelley receive a new washer and dryer, but the house was repainted, the kitchen was remodeled, the backyard was cleaned up, hand rails were added wherever they were needed and her bathroom was completely gutted and replaced with state-of-the-art facilities designed exclusively for the use of seniors.
The bathroom was installed by San Francisco designer and owner of BathPacks Jane Regan, who also is a certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. She included ADA compliant features in the bathroom, and installed grab bars, a hand shower with a fold down seat for Kelley to sit down, a wall-hinged sink and a toilet with a washlet for easier cleaning.
“This will be a huge help for John and his mom,” Regan said. “It’s so important for people in this stage of their lives to be safe in their homes.”
Simich and Kelley will be able to spend more time “rocking out” together, now that the home is equipped to make life much simpler for the two of them, Somers added.
“I’m so happy,” Kelley said with a smile as she glanced across her new kitchen. “My heart is just pumping.”
For more information about 3in4 Need More, visit www.3in4needmore.com.