Some Manitoba seniors who want to age in their homes will now have access to funding to make that possible, the province said Thursday.

The Manitoba government is developing a grant program to support home modifications that will allow them to stay in their own homes longer. Those projects could include installing ramps, widened doorways, curbless showers and improved lighting, Seniors Minister Scott Johnston said at a Thursday news conference.

“We recognize we have an aging society, and therefore these initiatives are there to help,” Johnston said.

The aid will only be available to households with someone over the age of 65 and an annual household income of no more than $60,000. The program will receive an annual budget of $1.5 million.

Marnie Courage, an occupational therapist for more than 20 years, has seen first-hand the impact on seniors when their homes are not accessible.

“I’ve met people who’ve had to move because they’ve had a change in mobility that had required a wheelchair [or] a walker, and their house was not set up for accessibility,” said Courage, who is the CEO of Enabling Access, a company that provides occupational therapy services.

“I know others who have gone months, several years, without being able to bathe in their bathtub because they can’t get in safely.”

Courage said the home modifications supported by the provincial government will be able to address some of those issues.

$1.5M supportive housing program boost

Johnston wouldn’t estimate how many seniors could benefit annually from the grant. He said the province is issuing a request for proposals on Thursday to find an organization to administer the program.

Some other provinces already have a grant program to support home renovations for seniors trying to age in their own homes.

The province also pledged an additional $1.5 million in funding on Thursday for its supportive housing program, which has over 750 units in Manitoba.

That “housing with care” model provides residents in community-based aggregate settings with access to supports that include meals, laundry, light housekeeping and personal support services, the province says.

Under the new funding, facility operators will receive an increase to the daily amount they receive for each resident — currently $42 per day, and increasing to $50 per day.

Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly, said the higher per diem rate will “really help them establish a better foundation to continue to operate.”

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