When you pull up to Brenda’s house in Lowell, you’ll notice the greyhound sign posted on a fence in her driveway. She has loved and cared for six greyhounds in her life. No longer able to care for large dogs due to physical restrictions, she now has three Chihuahuas. These dogs are her family and, as she states, “They make my life worthwhile”.
In the last few years, Brenda has developed a multitude of health issues including tinnitus, vertigo, and neuropathy of her hands and feet which increasingly make it difficult to get around. About a year and a half ago, she had a bad fall, and at the time, doctors did not discover two torn ligaments in her leg. Four subsequent falls later, Brenda knew she would have to have some modifications done to her home to keep her safe.
Born in the state of Washington, “an army brat” Brenda calls herself, she and her family moved three more times around the United States before they settled in Leominster, MA. After high school graduation, she lived in the North End for twelve years, moved to Arlington, married, moved to Wakefield briefly, and finally settled in Lowell with her husband. Although the marriage didn’t last, her love of Lowell, her neighborhood and the people did. Her neighbors regularly help each other out and Brenda has been the recipient of snow removal services from one of her more youthful neighbors handy with a snow-blower.
Wanting to help her larger Lowell community, Brenda just got involved with the Older Adult Action Group to advocate for age-friendly changes to the city, understanding at a younger age than most, the challenges that come with aging and disability.
Last fall, Brenda, frustrated with her medical office’s lack of guidance, reached out to a local senior center for assistance with making her home safer for her to navigate. They suggested she call Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell’s Critical Home Repair Program. Habitat Lowell’s CHR coordinator collaborated with Aging in Place Specialist, Evangeline Bates of Evangeline Interiors, who toured Brenda’s home and made several recommendations for her including strategic grab bar and railing placements. Once Brenda applied and was accepted to the CHR program and had paid her 25% of the program’s participatory portion, Lowell Habitat tapped into a grant from Saab Family Foundation to fund the other 75% of the estimated value of installing all necessary grab bars and railings to help keep Brenda from falling again.
Before the installation of these bars and railings, Brenda said she had to think about all her movements maneuvering around the house. “I now have more confidence in getting around and I do feel safer! I wish I had known about the program earlier. It’s been a life saver because I did not know if I could have remained here and where I would have moved to with my pets. I live for my pets!”. To have to move to somewhere that would be safer for her but not allow pets would be devastating.
The collaboration between Habitat Lowell, Aging in Place Specialist, Evangeline Bates, and Saab Family Foundation has made it possible for Brenda to remain where she is and surrounded by the pets she loves and depends upon for happiness!