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Handyman plan bridges trust gap for wary seniors

    At one time or another, everyone needs the services of a handyman, and the older one gets, the more the demand.
    But who can you trust? It’s a question that particularly dogs seniors wary of being taken by scammers.
    The growing concern prompted Alton-based Senior Services Plus to start its own handyman program, which pairs up seasoned citizens with workers from its staff on a variety of projects.
    “There were a lot of seniors coming to us who were being taken advantage of,” Senior Services Executive Director p01 BeckerJohn Becker said. “We got to a point in time we basically started a handyman service for minor home repairs, in order for seniors to get decent service and not get overcharged.”
    The program does not offer large repairs, like new roofs or house construction, but it does provide an opportunity for people to get a bid on more minor work and have something to compare with the costs of other providers.
    Becker said there have been instances where Senior Services Plus has bid-out jobs that were “200 to 300 percent” less than outside contractors — possibly “unscrupulous” ones.
    “We’re not undercutting anybody, but we’ve had bids that come back thousands of dollars vs. what we’re providing,” he said.
    Seniors are in a unique position. They often live on their own, away from their families, and often with few resources. Women living by themselves are particularly vulnerable, he said.
    “People see a senior and they jack the price up,” Becker said.
    The handyman program offers a choice.
    “We’ve had occasion where we go out and do a bid for manhours,” he said. The service gives them an idea of what they should be paying and the ultimate choice is made by the customer.
    “It doesn’t mean they can’t go with a reputable contractor,” he said.
    Financial exploitation of seniors is one of the worst facets of elder abuse.
    “A lot of people think such abuse is physical, but it’s really the financial issue,” he said.
    The work is done by staff at Senior Services Plus.
    “We’re using existing staff (now), but we think it will grow in the future,” he said. The program was implemented in 2016, with the idea that it might grow to the point where staff would have to be added.
    The nonprofit center, which is the largest senior advocacy center in the region, averages a couple of calls a week for the handyman program — mainly people needing a ceiling fan installed, gutters cleaned, a window or door installed or minor electrical and plumbing work.
    “We like to serve people over 60, but it depends on the need, and it’s private pay,” Becker said. “We do the jobs ourselves at a very reasonable cost.”
    For more information contact Senior Services Plus at (618) 465-3298.

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