This story was written by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (District 74-Jamestown /Middletown).

Let’s face it; we all want to “age in place” in our own homes.   As we age and we watch our parents age, walking and climbing stairs can get difficult. 

Data shows that home renovations — handrails, chair lifts for stairs or roll-in showers — can keep you safely in your home or apartment, active in the community and out of a nursing home. Falls are the leading cause of injury and hospitalization for people over 65. Many go from the hospital to the nursing home and never make it back home. The top two fears of most older Rhode Islanders are losing their independence and going to a nursing home.    

Home modifications can be a little pricey on a fixed income. That’s why the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Program is so important for our seniors and those living with disabilities. Under this program, the state reimburses you 50 percent of the total cost of your home modification, up to $5,000. For the past three years, I’ve cosponsored legislation (with Rep. Joseph McNamara); and the governor also puts it in her budget.   

The Livable Homes Modification Grant Program is administered by the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities.  It helps Rhode Islanders with disabilities and seniors  access money for home modifications that help keep them out of nursing homes. 

If you’re thinking about an accessibility project for your home such as an indoor chair lift, outdoor ramps or an accessible bathroom, you really need to consider applying for this money.  Applications are approved or denied within three business days.  Ninety-five percent of applications are approved and the majority of projects are completed within one year. 

Once the Certificate of Approval has been issued, you then hire your contractor to do the work, pay the contractor, and then submit the bill to Governor’s Commission on Disabilities for 50 percent payment, up to $5,000. So if your project costs $6,000, you’ll be reimbursed $3,000. If your project is $12,000 you’ll receive $5,000, the maximum available.

When I visit my senior centers in Jamestown and Middletown, I take applications with me and remind folks that the money is there for home modification projects. A number of my constituents have taken advantage of the program and tell me it’s pretty effortless. Once you submit all the necessary documents for the modification project, you will be reimbursed within 30 to 45 days. 

Alyssa Gleason is the coordinator for the Livable Home Modification Program. She gets it. Email her for an or call 462-0103.

The income eligibility is pretty high and does not include your savings. So if you have an annual income of $78,700 or less, you qualify. If you and one dependent have a household income of $89,950, you qualify.

So please take advantage of the money that is in the state budget for people 65+ or those with disabilities to retrofit your home or apartment. We need you in our community!