ALTON — Senior Services Plus (SSP) is looking out for senior citizens when it comes to home repair and maintenance.
SSP’s handyman program began five years ago but it has expanded in the last two years through a partnership with Ameren Illinois and in response to the need in the community. The program started with one person and now has four full-time handymen and one intern, led by program director Steve McEuen.
“We started this service because seniors in the area were being taken advantage of by contractors,” said SSP Executive Director John Becker.
One case in particular spurred SSP to start the program. A woman received bids for roofing and called Senior Services Plus to compare costs.
“Our maintenance supervisor went out and developed a bid for less than $800, the others were $1,500 or more,” Becker recalled. “We did it to give her an idea of what she should have been getting for bids. We decided to put something together for home repair.”
“Aging in place is the trend” he noted, and every day, for the next 35 years, 65,000 people turn 65 in the U.S.
“People want to remain in their homes, it’s less expensive and they have a higher quality of life,” Becker said. “Our country won’t be able to build the residential support for the influx of the aging population they’ll need.”
Thus, those seniors will be looking for adaptations to their homes, such as maximizing living on the first floor, adaptations to restrooms, kitchens and entire living spaces.
“We guarantee our work, too,” said McEuen, who has been the director for the last two years. “We’ll come back and fix it if there’s a problem. Of the hundred-plus jobs since I’ve been involved, we’ve followed up on two for just minor things.”
And now, not only but also because of COVID-19, there’s more of a need to have a safe place to live.
“We found seniors are grossly overcharged,” Becker said. “There are tremendous local contractors who do a great job, but some from out of the area are taking advantage of seniors.”
SSP’s partnership with Ameren Illinois is the number one reason that the program has grown, but number two is the national trend over the past several years of aging in place.
Due to the Ameren Illinois partnership, SSP also added HVAC services to its program’s list, which includes heating, cooling and light plumbing repairs, led by program supervisor Joe Alexander.
“We are looking at offering people an alternative for services in the Alton region,” Becker said.
The Ameren Illinois partnership began nearly two years ago, with SSP being one of 47 entities across the state chosen to participate in the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program Market Development Initiative (MDI). The award-winning program encourages action through education and financial incentives that offset the cost of energy-saving upgrades.
“A big part of this partnership is because of Ameren Illinois President Richard Mark, who pushed hard for low income seniors to receive energy efficiency upgrades,” Becker said. “And a big part of SSP’s successful handyman program is SSP’s reputation of trust, and people know we’re going to do a good job when we go to a home.
“We provide energy education, direct installs, smart thermostats, kits and more,” Becker said.
Currently there are 300 seniors on SSP’s waiting list for smart thermostats. SSP does not do massive jobs such as replacing a roof, siding an entire house or installing all new windows, for which SSP refers people to the Better Business Bureau.
For more information about the handyman program, and future SSP energy efficiency classes, call SSP at 618-465-3298.