Shenandoah University and Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity are teaming up to provide information on how older adults can remain longer in their homes as they age.

A program of seven free sessions developed by SU doctoral student Carolyn Adams, Habitat for Humanity's aging in place specialist Brittany Day and Kim Herbstritt, the organization’s executive director, will be open to anyone age 63 and older as well as for those who are caretakers of older adults.

Adams, who is in her third year of a doctorate program for occupational therapy at the university, said the sessions will begin on Feb. 1. The development of these sessions, she said, is her doctoral capstone experience.

"Each session should be about 45 minutes to an hour per session and we'll be focusing on different aspects of aging in place,” she said. “We’re going to have a session on home modification; assistive technology that can be used to help people age in place; different community resources that can be utilized – how to find them and how to kind of go about accessing those resources.

“We’re going to be doing a fall risk prevention and I’ll be going over a home safety tech list so that people will be able to take that home as well,” she said, adding that one of the sessions will include a home exercise program.

“We will also be going over kitchen safety and meal preparation to enhance independence and safety during activities of daily living.”

Volunteers for the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, a worldwide Christian housing organization, have been repairing and building affordable homes since its founding in 1976. Day said the organization recognizes the need to make homes that will grow with the families that reside in them.

“We’ve actually realized after several months of vigorous interviews that we have a rapidly aging community and a lot of our community members want to stay in their homes as long as possible, so what we’re trying to do now, through both the building of new homes so that they are accessible no matter what age range or ability you are currently experiencing so that you can grow with your home – like you don’t have to turn around in five years and make a change,” she said.

“We also have the repair program that we are doing where you may not need an entirely new home, but you may need that ramp … or you need your bathroom changed around so that you can access it without having to worry about falling.”

Falls in the home, she said, is the biggest problem they are seeing.

“It is the biggest thing and sadly one of the statistics, I can’t remember where we pulled it from, is that 56% of older adults who fall within the year are going to fall again. And it is a staggering amount and scary because sometimes you have those adults that are laying there waiting for help.”

She noted that one safety precaution to prevent falls is to make sure that there are no area rugs, or if there are, be sure to tape them down to avoid tripping over them.

Grab bars, like those found in a bathroom, she added, are being made now so that they look like part of the design of a bathroom.

“They are making some amazing grab bars that are very stylish now, too, so I mean it’s not going to be an automatic ‘Oh, that’s what it’s here for,’” she said. 
“It’s really interesting some of the things that are coming out now.”

Home repairs and additions are expensive, and Adams said she will offer some tips on that. 


“I will be focusing on a lot of low-cost modifications and, within our community resource session, I will be talking about different resources in the community for low income or any programs that are available to them if they need financial assistance for any modifications or anything like that,” she said.

The sessions will also include how devices can be of help in the home.

“We definitely will be talking about different devices and technology that can help promote independence within the home,” Adams said. “it will incorporate some technology but a lot of it is going to be focused on devices that can help promote independence and mobility within the home to keep those people in their homes as long as possible.”

Adams said she is excited about the upcoming sessions.

“I’ve always loved working with seniors and the aging population and I think this is definitely a really needed thing for our community especially,” she said. “So I think this is going to be an awesome way to kind of reach seniors in the community.

The first session will be held at 11 a.m. on Feb. 1 in the Health Professions Building at Shenandoah University, 1775 N. Sector Court in Winchester. The other six sessions will be at 11 a.m. each consecutive Wednesday: Feb. 8, Feb. 15, Feb. 22, March 1, March 8 and March 15 at the Health Professions Building. 

For questions about the program, contact Adams at 540-692-3906 or email cadams191@su.edu

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