Why Seniors Should Be Allowed To Stay In Their Homes 

by Sue Droit, age 57, Malverne


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Sometimes, it’s really the small things that make the biggest difference.

For my mother, it was the small things that made her home hers. The way she had set up the mantle. The bedrooms we had grown up in. Her rose bush. Each of those was a big reason she wanted to stay there.

I wanted her to stay there too. But there was also a list of small things that were standing in the way. The two steps at the front door. Driving was becoming more difficult. Putting in an AC or taking out the trash.

Individually, they weren't much. Together, they were the difference between my mother staying in the home I grew up in and assisted living. We did look at a few places. I don’t think it would surprise you that neither her nor I were thrilled by any of them.

The whole eldercare network seemed to be designed to work one way:  all too often the response of the system for people who are not able to manage some aspect of independent living is to remove them from their homes entirely, place them somewhere they don't really want to be, spend them into poverty so that they qualify for Medicaid and declare victory.

My mother and I wanted something different, and so I went looking for a solution. What I found was a really simple idea called Umbrella, which had been started 22 years ago in upstate New York.

The idea was this: we could work with the local community of retirees, volunteer firefighters, stay-at-home parents and others to provide the practical support system to help seniors stay in their homes. By providing low cost home maintenance and a wide variety of personal services, Umbrella helps its members keep the two things they cherish most...their homes and their independence.

Today, hundreds of community members provide service to households across the state, doing household chores, home maintenance, and running errands. Whether it’s accompaniment to a doctor’s appointment, leaves that need to be raked, a single phone call to Umbrella connects my mother to this community.

Umbrella is showing there’s a better way, with an idea so simple I wish I had thought of it myself: the community can help seniors gain confidence to live comfortably and independently in their own home for as long as desirable and practical.  

In fact, I was so moved I ended up becoming an Umbrella Ambassador and helping bring Umbrella to Nassau County. My mother and I both live here. We’re planning on staying.

Sue Droit, age 57, Malverne


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