When Harley Jones of Silt started using a wheelchair in January because of arthritis in his right knee, he became a prisoner in his own home. Replacing the steep steps at the entrance of his mobile home with a wheelchair ramp would be a complex and prohibitively expensive project.
Jones is grateful for all the help he got from friends and neighbors, including Silt Police Chief Levy Burris. When he could not walk at all, people sometimes had to carry him — in his wheelchair — down the steps just to get him to doctors’ appointments. Once, individuals with Silt’s Burning Mountains Fire Protection District used a chair lift to get Jones out of his house.
But Jones needed a better solution. He got that last week when Helping Hands for Seniors, part of the High Country Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) installed a modular wheelchair ramp at his home.
Patty Daniells, High Country RSVP program director, said wheelchair ramps are not particularly difficult to build at some locations. But the height of the entrance to Harley Jones’ home meant his ramp would have to be longer than average for its slope to meet safety requirements. The necessary length required a turn in the ramp, which complicated its design and required more materials. All of these factors increased the cost.
RSVP volunteer Jake Jackson drew up plans for a ramp that would work at Jones’ residence. But when he priced the lumber needed, he learned about another possible solution, a modular wheelchair ramp. These ramps are built from component parts that are configured for specific sites.
Made from aluminum, the ramps are corrosion resistant and easier to install and maintain than traditional wood ramps. The most important feature of modular ramps, though, is flexibility. They can be resized or moved if a user’s needs change.
Flexibility is important to organizations like RSVP, which stretch limited funds to help as many people as possible. RSVP retains ownership of the ramp at Jones’ home, and if he eventually does not need it, Helping Hands can disassemble it and use its components to provide a ramp for someone else at relatively low cost.
Daniells explained that requests for help with wheelchair ramps are increasing and that modular systems will reduce costs over the long term. That means RSVP will be able to help more people.
After researching various ramp companies, Daniells decided on Express Ramps of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which manufactures its ADA compliant products, in the USA. http://www.modular-wheelchair-ramps.com. The company also makes portable ramps.
The total cost for the ramp at Mr. Jones’ residence was $3,790 and Daniells “knocked on a lot of doors” to find the money. The Aspen Community Foundation provided $2,000 for the project. The Salvation Army added $400 and Senior Equipment Services, a division of Garfield County Human Services, contributed another $500. The remainder came from the Helping Hands general fund, which is supported by a grant from the Rifle Community Foundation.
Jones explained another benefit of the wheelchair ramp. As his knee continues to improve, he can practice walking on it like he does in therapy sessions. Holding on to its rails, he can walk in an upright position (with good posture), which he cannot do with a walker.
Jones is very happy with the assistance and freedom his new ramp gives him and is grateful to RSVP’s Helping Hands for making it possible. He said, “You don’t realize how good people are until you need them.”
MORE ABOUT RSVP
RSVP helps seniors 55 and up apply their talent, energy and life experience to help their communities. No special skills are required to volunteer. RSVP provides any necessary training. Volunteers choose how much time they want to invest in RSVP projects and how often they want to serve.
High Country RSVP runs Helping Hands and three other programs:
Medicare Counseling — this free service helps people understand all parts of Medicare including supplement plans and prescription drug coverage, as well as Medicaid, Low Income Subsidy (LIS) and other money saving programs. Daniells said RSVP is especially busy helping clients during Medicare Part D Open Enrollment, the period when anyone with Medicare can make changes to their plans for the following year. Open Enrollment for 2015 is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2014.
AARP Tax-aide Program — this program assists seniors, disabled and low-income individuals prepare and electronically file their state and federal income tax returns. Also free, the AARP Tax-aide program is open to people from Aspen to Parachute and in Craig and Eagle.
AARP Driver Safety Classes for 50+ — Available from Aspen to Parachute, these classes taught by RSVP volunteers help people age 50 and over adjust to changes in peripheral vision, hearing, depth perception and decision making.
RSVP is a good place to start for seniors who want to help their communities in any capacity, though, because it also matches seniors with volunteer opportunities at other agencies, from delivering meals to mentoring young people.