Civic Coffee Recap: Home Efficiency

Man painting window frames of an old house. Home maintenance project.

Over the past couple of years, Seattle has seen the impact of climate change. In one year alone, we saw record-breaking temperatures in May and an extreme ice storm in December.

Due to extreme weather patterns, people tend to use more energy. Researchers have found that we also use more energy as we age—we tend to stay home more and use more heating and cooling. With a growing population of older people, researchers predict that the overall energy demand is expected to rise by about 60 percent by 2040. To accommodate our aging population and still reduce our carbon footprint, we need to find innovative solutions for older adults to live efficiently in accessible home environments.

A screenshot of the Civic Coffee recap on Home Efficiency.

Click on the image above to watch the Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffee on Home Efficiency.

On May 24, 2023, Age Friendly Seattle collaborated with Greenwood Senior Center to hold a Civic Coffee that focused on home efficiency and ways to best age in place. Panelists were Jessica Schell, project coordinator from Habitat for Humanity; Ethan Zecca, project manager from Habitat for Humanity; and Adam Crawford, outreach manager from Puget Sound Energy.

A nationwide AARP survey has shown that 77 percent of adults aged 50 and older want to age in place. To make this happen safely and efficiently, it is important that we think of ways to improve our homes.

Our bodies age and our homes age with us, so it is important to keep things updated and safe. Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair Program provides the community with affordable home repairs, from updating roofs to modifications that help people age in place safely and comfortably.

As we age, there can be many changes that people don’t realize they need to make for their homes to be more accessible. Jessica mentioned that higher toilets, accessible showers, ramps, and removing tripping hazards are crucial modifications for older adults. On top of this, Ethan highlighted small home modifications that impact daily living—like improved lighting and changing doorknobs to lever-style door handles, which are easier to open for people who have arthritis. Changes to our homes that increase accessibility can allow us to live more independently for longer and thrive as we age.

The Puget Sound Energy Weatherization Program can also help income-qualified older adults age in place by making their homes more energy efficient and better able to stand against hot and cold temperatures. Adam mentioned that, if we notice our homes are too cold in the winter or too hot during the summer and have high energy bills, it is likely that the house is not properly protected from the weather. The weatherization program addresses issues like unsealed air leaks and insulation that can be upgraded to make sure that a home is as energy efficient as it can be.

Adam also mentioned that, if you do not qualify for the weatherization program, Puget Sound Energy offers rebates on energy-efficient upgrades so people can invest in their homes without breaking the bank. These home upgrades not only reduce future bills, they can help reduce a home’s carbon footprint toward the environment.

Our panelists also highlighted the importance of reaching out to see what kind of program is right for you. Too often, we don’t know what we need until it becomes a serious issue. Both Habitat for Humanity and Puget Sound Energy have programs that exist to make our lives easier and help us remain comfortably in our homes.

No matter what stage of life you are at, there are changes you can make to your home so it will accommodate you as you age. We encourage you to watch the video-recorded Civic Coffee event on YouTube for more tips and tricks for home efficiency and to learn more about Habitat for Humanity and Puget Sound Energy.

At the May Civic Coffee, we were able to enjoy the company of Greenwood Senior Center participants and community while having a conversation about how to best age in place. The event was streamed live on Facebook and via Zoom for those who were unable to attend in person.

We encourage you to keep an eye out for our next in-person event to further engage with the community. Visit Age Friendly Seattle’s events webpage, Aging King County’s Age Friendly Live—Virtual Events webpage, and follow Age Friendly Seattle on Facebook and Twitter.

Ronya-TanContributor Ronya Tan is an intern on the Age Friendly Seattle team, providing community outreach and program support. She is a recent University of Washington graduate.

This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of AgeWise King County.