JOHNSVILLE — For the past four years, Goldie Parks, a sprightly 92-year-old, has experienced what she considers a luxury but what many of us take for granted.
She got an indoor toilet and a bathtub installed in her house, along with a water heater. She also had her roof repaired and new windows installed in her neat two-room bungalow.
For 29 years, when Parks and her late husband had to use the bathroom, they went to the outhouse. When they wanted to take a hot bath,they stoked the wood-burning stove in the basement, heated large kettles of water and poured them into a tub.
"It has made a wonderfuldifference," she said. "I wish I had it years ago."
Liz Passman, who runs the information and assistance office of the Carroll County Department of Aging, said many seniors have housing in need of repairs.
The roof of Ethel Gibson's 35-year-old home had deteriorated somuch that water poured in her house every time it rained.
"It gotto the point where my ceiling was smiling," said Gibson, an ebullient 71-year-old, describing how the water pooling above her ceilings made them bow.
She contacted Passman, who guided her through the steps to obtain a Community Development Administration loan, which allowed her to not only put on new roof but install a new ceiling and upgrade her kitchen so she no longer had to cook solely on a wood-burningstove.
"My house is much nicer now," said Gibson, "A lot of people should look into these programs. It was worth it, and it wasn't a strain."
Passman said many of the elderly find themselves in situations where they need repairs to their houses, but they don't have themoney to pay for them.
"Many of these seniors live below the poverty line. Many of them are widows trying to live on less than $560 a month," she said.
She said there's a steady stream of requests forrepair.
Many of these women are self sufficient and can maintain the house if the repairs are made.
"As long as I can cook for myself, I plan to stay here," said Parks, who has a granddaughter who takes her shopping and to the doctor. "There isn't any reason for me to leave this house."
Passman said not everyone needs construction ofan indoor toilet and bath like Parks. Some other repairs are more mundane.
"Right now, we are looking at a case where a woman lives ina house that is more than 100 years old where the porches are falling down and in need of repair," Passman said. "She also has a bathroomthat needs some type of bracing."
Many of the repairs used to be covered by the state's HOMAR program, which did not receive any moneythis year. These were grants up to $1,500 to repair or install new furnaces, smoke alarms, locks and other enhancements to improve the health and safety of elderly residents.
Even though state programs for elderly housing have been cut,Passman said much of the work is done by volunteers like Masonry Contractors,the Mount Airy Jaycees,Lutheran Brotherhood and Northeast Social Action Program.
The volunteers donate time and materials for the major repairs. Senior citizens can also take out state Community Development Administration loans at low rates and stretched-out repayment terms.
Passman said she also has a cadre of volunteers who do odd jobs like painting and minor repairs.
"We haven't really publicized this very much,but there are people calling continuously to get things done," she said.