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If these walls could talk: Older adults find comfort at home

Alicia Colombo

By Mary Anna Rodabaugh

For over half a century, Frances Blackshear’s West Philadelphia home has been the place for birthdays, holidays and family gatherings. The 86-year-old can still remember when she and her late husband made a $50 down payment on the $8,500 house, 56 years ago.

The seafoam green interior walls of the four-bedroom dwelling have witnessed the gleeful giggles of children and grandchildren, as well as the tears of sorrow and grief. But the house is a lot quieter these days.

Since her brother’s passing in November 2019, she has become the home’s sole resident.

When Blackshear is feeling unsettled, she searches for something inside the home that she can clean, which makes her feel better. “In spite of age, it makes me proud that I can still do certain things,” Blackshear said.

She also spends time focusing on the positivity and the joy of her extended family. Blackshear has learned to adapt with the changing times by texting and Facetiming with loved ones and listening to her favorite music via YouTube videos.

Even with a few aches and pains, Blackshear is in excellent health. She relies on family to take her to the market to buy groceries but otherwise, makes out just fine on her own. Blackshear enjoys a steadfast daily routine of prayer, music, coffee, and sitting on her porch watching neighbors and cars travel down the street.

However, as time goes on, larger house projects become necessary, like the imminent need for a new roof. She advises anyone who is close to retirement to invest in large house projects a few years prior to retiring.

Blackshear has considered moving to a retirement community. “I can’t stay in this house by myself,” Blackshear said. “But I’m like my mom. I want to stay but I also want to go where there are people.”

It is a common dilemma that many older adults face: Wanting to remain in their home but needing support to do so. According to a 2018 national survey by AARP, 3 of 4 adults 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.

The desire to stay at home

Home truly is where the heart is. Each morning, Blackshear reads a bit under the warm glow of her skylight. Then, she opens the blinds and cracks the screen door to take in the air. She makes a point not to turn on the radio or television early in the morning, as not to “let the world in just yet.”

Blackshear enjoys the daily routine in her well-loved home. Ideally, she would like a family member to move in with her but continues to wrestle between staying put or moving to an older adult community.

“I was thinking about moving to a place in Delaware,” Blackshear said. “But it is a rural location. It is not like the city. Philadelphia has a lot (to offer) aging people.”

For now, Blackshear is going to stay in her large, beautiful home – in the neighborhood she’s lived most of her life – for as long as she is able.

Resources for older adults at home

Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) has many resources available to help older adults remain in their homes and communities. One such resource is PCA’s Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program (SHARP), which provides minor repairs and modifications to make homes safer and more secure for income-eligible Philadelphia homeowners. To learn more about PCA’s support services and other resources for help in the home, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to

The Mayor’s Commission on Aging
also provides support for a variety of older adults’ in-home needs. To learn more about services available, call 215-686-8450.

Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation’s (PHDC’s) Basic Systems Repair Program provides free repairs to correct electrical, plumbing, heating, structural and roofing emergencies in eligible owner-occupied homes in Philadelphia. To learn more about this program, call 215-448-3000 or go to

Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.

Categories: Housing Milestones eNews


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