Lifting Jersey Shore Houses Creates Problems For Elderly, Disabled
Along the Jersey Shore, many people are elevating their Sandy-damaged homes to lift them out of reach from future storms.
But lifting homes presents unique problems for elderly or disabled residents who call the Shore home.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
And staying at the Jersey Shore, many people there are elevating their Sandy-damaged homes to lift them out of the reach of surging waters. But lifting homes presents some problems for elderly and disabled residents who called the shore home. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, here's WHYY's Tracey Samuelson.
TRACEY SAMUELSON, BYLINE: Richard West has late onset muscular dystrophy.
RICHARD WEST: So I need access. I need support.
SAMUELSON: And also...
WEST: A power wheelchair, a ventilator, oxygen.
SAMUELSON: He owns a 900-square-foot home on a canal in Tuckerton, New Jersey, just north of Atlantic City. He's a pretty independent guy, and maintaining that independence is important to him.
WEST: You want to go in my house?
SAMUELSON: Sure. Right now, he enters his home by zipping up a ramp that runs the whole length of the house. And with so many unanswered questions about how high he might have to lift to his home, he decided he should move inland.
WEST: Easier, safer to move on.
SAMUELSON: Dorothy McDowell moved to an independent living facility after Sandy ripped a wall off her home in Toms River, New Jersey. Rebuilding would've meant building higher and further back from the water. Dorothy is in a wheelchair after polio as a kid and a car accident in the '70s. She figures the changes would've required an elevator, so she worried about power outages.
DOROTHY MCDOWELL: And then, the final thing would be expense.
MARY CICCONE: Generally, the rule of thumb is you need one foot of ramp for every of inch of height.
SAMUELSON: Mary Ciccone is managing attorney with Disability Rights New Jersey. She says it's tough to say how many elderly or disabled people on the shore are in the same boat.
CICCONE: Currently, the houses - many of the houses down in that part of the state are one story, little houses that, for people who have disabilities or the elderly, are very easy to maneuver. They can, you know, there may be at most one step to get up.
SAMUELSON: Homes that need to be, say, eight feet off the ground would need a ramp as a long as a basketball court. It becomes impractical very quickly.
But Ciccone says there's another group of people who should be thinking about this: second homeowners who plan to eventually retire down the shore.
CICCONE: And in a few years, if they suddenly can't do stairs, then they're going to wind up having to, you know, put in a lift at that point. It may be less feasible. It may be more complicated and probably more costly.
SAMUELSON: Ciccone says baby boomers may not need a lift or an elevator right now, but if they leave space for it as they rebuild, down the road, it could save lots of headaches and maybe some achy knees too. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Tracey Samuelson in Tuckerton, New Jersey.
YOUNG: We will take a break. When we come back, Robert Pinsky helps us remember Ireland's great poet, Seamus Heaney, who died today. You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.