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Harpswell volunteers help elders stay in their homes

For the past two and a half years, these community members have been fixing up the homes of lower income elderly residents for free.

HARPSWELL, Maine — As so many Mainers grow older, more are facing the challenges that come with continuing to live in their own homes.  

They may not have enough money for needed repairs or are no longer able to do needed maintenance themselves. Besides that, many older people may need to make modifications to remain safe on stairs, bathrooms, and decks.

In the town of Harpswell, they’ve found a solution.

It's an all-volunteer group called "Harpswell Aging at Home."

For the past two and a half years, they’ve been fixing up the homes of lower income elderly residents for free.

The work is focused on keeping people warm and safe, so they do everything from insulation to electric systems, handrails to needed interior and exterior repairs. 

"The people really want to stay in their home," said group founder Bob Bauman, a 79-year-old retired engineer. "That's where their memories are, where they raised their kids and they identify with a home, that’s where they belong and what we're doing allows them to do that."

The group has 25 volunteers who do the work, and all but one of them are also retirees. Habitat 7 Rivers provides the needed materials.

On Wednesday they were working on the group’s 63rd project, a home belonging to Pat Pennock. The crew was installing GFCI outlets in kitchen and bath, switching doorknobs to easy-to-turn lever handles and adding grab bars and weather stripping, the biggest job is rebuilding the deck, to include a ramp for Penmck to taker her Irish Wolfhound named Tully into huge backyard.

"Isn’t it wonderful?" Penmck said. "I intend to stay in this house. It will make it much easier."

The volunteer crew says the work is enjoyable and the rewards well worth it, even on cold days.

"We all like working with our hands and all like the satisfaction of helping people," said John Lichter.

The Harpswell Aging at Home members says they would like to see other towns follow their lead, and form their own volunteer groups to help elders stay at home. The organization can be reached through the Town of Harpswell or Habitat 7 Rivers in Topsham. And at their own website: https://www.hah.community/

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