A new interest-free loan scheme will put cash in the hands of seniors, the head of charity for the elderly said yesterday.
Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern, predicted that the $500,000 government-backed loan scheme for seniors would make it easier for older and infirm people to remain in their own homes.
Dr Fleming said that the elderly were often discriminated against when they sought a bank loan.
She explained: “It’s difficult. They don’t have a means of income to pay it back. With this ... it’s more of a likelihood that they will be able to get these funds.”
Dr Fleming was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, announced that the funds had been earmarked for the new programme.
Mr Burt said that families would be eligible to apply for interest-free loans of up to $15,000 for renovations to help seniors continue to live in their homes.
He added: “We believe that after a lifetime of hard work to secure their homes, seniors should not have to face the prospect of re-encumbering that asset, or even surrendering it, in instances where some basic modification can see them live out those special years in familiar and comfortable surroundings.”
Mr Burt added: “The simple installation of bathroom fixtures, ramps and railings can make living at home more accessible for seniors.”
He said that fixtures and fittings for that type of upgrade would be duty free.
Dr Fleming added that the loan scheme had less “formality” than the process through a bank.
She added: “It’s more of a social community feel — and that’s why we wanted to be involved.”
The loans will be provided through the Bermuda Housing Corporation, in conjunction with Age Concern.
Dr Fleming said that the charity would help with the “social aspects” of the loan assessment.
She added: “The BHC will deal with the financial aspect.”
Dr Fleming said that it was difficult to say how many seniors were in need of a loan.
But she added: “We’ll find out from this programme.
“That’s another reason why we’re involved — to collect the social data.”
Dr Fleming said that the programme could also help to ease demand on care homes for seniors.
She explained: “There is a limited amount of beds that are in the community.
“I think it’s responsible to look at people’s homes first to see if they can be retrofitted for long-term care assistance.”
Dr Fleming added that “most” seniors preferred to remain in their homes.
Mr Burt said that the loan application form created by the BHC was “easy” and was available on the corporation’s website and at the BHC headquarters on Church Street in Hamilton.
He added: “The applications will be subject to a basic assessment by Age Concern’s team to verify the proposed modifications, and thereafter processed quickly so that work can begin.
“We will work with seniors and families at the front end to ensure the repayment of the loans is manageable and regular.”
Mr Burt said that the loan scheme, a pledge made in the summer of 2018, “speaks to our values as a government”.
He added: “It speaks to our belief that we have to listen to our people and be strong enough to ensure that every Bermudian that needs a handup gets a handup.”
The Premier said that the $500,000 set aside for the loans could be increased in the future “if necessary”.
He added that the loans would be issued “in good faith”.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, encouraged anyone who could benefit from a loan to apply.
• UPDATE: This story was amended to correct an error reporting David Burt’s comment that “we have to listen to our people and be strong enough to ensure that every Bermudian that needs a handup gets a handup”.