The price of lumber and competition from other employers is contributing to higher costs and longer waitlists for seniors programs in Terrace.
Volunteer Terrace offers a suite of seniors services, including the Helping Handyman program. Through that program, the organization pays a Red Seal carpenter to help seniors with home maintenance so that they can stay in their homes longer. That can include tasks as simple as changing lightbulbs, but a significant part of the program is building wheelchair ramps.
“The cost for lumber right now has been extraordinarily expensive and that has had an impact for our seniors in a big way,” said Tracey Davidson, Volunteer Terrace executive director.
She said that while the handyman is paid for by Volunteer Terrace, seniors are required to cover the cost of materials. Ramps that used to cost around $300 now can carry a price tag over $1,000.
“It’s been really incredibly difficult to try and tell seniors that are living on a fixed income where maybe $200 or $300 would have certainly hurt [but] wouldn’t have been cost prohibitive, but right now $1,300 might as well be $10,000,” Davidson said.
“We never thought we’d see the day when we had to put out a call out for lumber.”
Volunteer Terrace also offers the Better at Home Program through the United Way, providing just over an hour of light housekeeping services biweekly. The program serves the double purpose of housekeeping and an opportunity for seniors to socialize.
But Davidson said ensuring that the program is staffed for the demand is a challenge, especially having lost two housekeepers over the past two years.
“A housekeeper can go to a camp job and make twice as much money as what I can offer as a small non-profit, I don’t have benefits that I can offer other than a fabulous boss,” she said.
“Getting money is is great, but we need people to apply for the jobs.”
Davidson said that COVID-19 has been isolating for seniors, and while donations of pressure treated lumber are extremely important right now, seniors are in need of conversations too.
“We can still socially react to people and say ‘hello,’ and yes, our masks are on right now, but that senior that’s in her driveway, you may have been the only person she’s seen for a week,” she said.
“That’s the piece that people are needing desperately.”