Meet our very own Seymour Turner! Seymour is a home modification expert and Instructor for “Course 3: Home Modification: Funding Resources and Financing Mechanisms,” of USC’s Executive Certificate in Home Modification Program…
Tell us about your history in the field of home accessibility.
After college, I started rehabbing older properties in gentrifying Chicago neighborhoods. With my hands-on experience, I joined an established residential design/build remodeling business beginning in sales before moving into executive management and founding a mortgage subsidiary to finance our clients’ projects. Our upper-bracket clientele did appreciate the lifetime benefits and broad appeal of the universal design features which we used as a market differentiator. As our business grew – so did my knowledge about accessibility features and I became certified by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Kitchen Bath Association, and the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. I tailored our mortgage business around finding funding for the added value of home modifications by creating relationships with like-minded institutional lenders and appraisers. After the private equity sale of that business, I started a strategic marketing consultancy leveraging accessible housing to expand the sales and/or customer loyalty for building product manufacturers and supply channel distributors.
What are your special interests in this field?
In a word: EQUITY. From an early age, I knew that there was more to my hometown, Chicago, than the North Side, the Cubs, the Magnificent Mile and the lakefront. My father had a small business on the City’s South Side that served predominantly older, low-income, African American customers. I spent most of my youth in that store on weekends and summers and saw how “social determinants of health” made their older years very different than the “golden years” my parents would enjoy a few years later. Creating housing accessibility can only happen with funding. For some fortunate seniors that means a call to their financial advisor to transfer some funds from their stock portfolio. For others finding a way to pay for a home modification is more challenging than getting the work done. I am so honored to be teaching a course on finding funding for life-changing home modifications for those many older adults without independent means.
What do you wish people knew about home modifications?
Everything I thought I knew about accessible housing was challenged as my parents, with their unique physical and cognitive multimorbidities, steadfastly resolved to age-in-place. We were very fortunate to have the financial means to make whatever home modification were necessary and some that were just nice to have. I quickly found out how little I knew about creating the right home modification “team” necessary to coordinate the environmental changes with my parents’ medical and mental health and social needs that could only be provided by occupational and physical therapists, social workers, psychologists and gerontologists.
What is an accomplishment of which you are most proud?
A couple of years ago, I was asked to join the Board of a nonprofit, H.O.M.E., which provides intergenerational affordable housing and housing supportive services for Chicago’s low-income seniors. I am most proud of our Upkeep and Repair Program that performs repairs with no labor costs to ensure seniors enjoy healthy and safe living conditions in their own homes. Last year, we expanded that program to include free home modifications based on the CAPABLE model developed at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. We are working with Rush Health Systems to provide an Occupational Therapist and Registered Nurse along with our Home Repair Specialist to provide home visits and case management which will enable seniors to improve their mobility and safety at home.