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New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

A new accessibility scheme recently announced by the French government gives grants for home improvements such as installing a stair lift or widening a doorframe to allow wheelchair access - here is how you could benefit.

New French State aid to help older people make home improvements
An elderly resident sits in her bedroom in Clamart nearby Paris. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

According to a recent survey in France, the vast majority of retired people expressed a desire to stay in their homes long-term, rather than entering a care facility.

While there are several schemes by the French government to provide assistance for renovating homes in order to make them more accessible for elderly people, the newly announced “MaPrimeAdapt” seeks to streamline the process.

When was it announced?

MaPrimeAdapt was part of President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election campaign, with plans for it first announced by the president last November.

Most recently, the government aid was earmarked to receive funding in the upcoming 2023 budget, which also hopes to increase the number of nursing home employees, as well as boost public funding for care centres.

The budget is set to allocate €35 million to the National Housing Agency (ANAH) in 2023. In response, the ministry of housing said to Capital France that one of their top priorities is “a single aid for the adaptation of housing to ageing” that would replace several existing government subsidies.

What is the goal of Ma Prime Adapt?

Similar to Ma Prime Renov, this programme hopes to provide additional funding for home refurbishment.

But while Ma Prime Renov focuses on environmentally friendly home adaptations, Ma Prime Adapt aims to make it simpler for older people or those with disabilities to refurbish their homes in order to maintain their autonomy and avoid falls.  

The French government also aims to reduce the number of fatal or disabling falls of people aged 65 by at least 20 percent by 2024, and by 2032, the goal is for at least 680,000 homes to be adapted, particularly those of low-income older people.

Who can benefit?

According to reporting by Le Monde, this aid is not solely reserved for people who already have decreased mobility. 

Instead, it is intended for older people generally. When applying, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that they are an independent retiree and need (this could be based on income, age, health, etc) to adapt their housing in order to make it more accessible.

The amount of assistance offered will be means-tested based on financial status.

What types of work would qualify?

Some examples of work that might qualify for assistance might be:

  • adapting the bathroom (for example, adding grab bars or enlarging the door)
  • replacing the bathtub with a shower
  • installing a bathtub with a door
  • installing a stair lift
  • adding access ramps to the home

The benefit is not limited to those options – any project that aims to increase home accessibility for a senior could qualify, as long as it is not simply aesthetic-focused.

Can it be combined with Ma Prime Renov?

They have different criteria, but Ma Prime Renov and Ma Prime Adapt can be combined in order to provide maximum support to elderly people wishing to adapt and stay in their homes.

How can I apply?

In order to apply, you will be required to meet the conditions stated above, in addition to being able to demonstrate that the housing in question is at least 15 years old and that the amount of work being done would cost at least €1,500.

Keep in mind that the renovation will need to be carried out by a recognised building company or contractor – specifically one with the label “RGE.”

You will be able  toapply for the Ma Prime Adapt aid via France’s National Housing Agency (ANAH). A dedicated website will be created to facilitate the process, with a launch date TBC. 

On the site, you will submit an application form that includes the estimates of the work planned. According to Le Monde, €5,600 will be the maximum amount of aid to be offered, and the cost of work will be capped at €8,000. However, this information has not yet been published by the National Housing Agency. 

What have the other available schemes been?

Currently, retirees in France can apply for the “Habiter facile” scheme from the ANAH (Agence Nationale de l’Habitat), which also helps to finance work that promotes the ability of elderly people to remain in their homes.

“Bien vieillir chez soi” is a similar aid scheme which is offered by the CNAV (social security).

The elderly and disabled can also benefit from tax credits on accessibility or home adaptation work. 

These will likely be replaced by Ma Prime Adapt, which will combine all benefits into one package.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Is it true that the French don’t like to talk about money?

How much do you make? Did you get a pay rise? What's the value of your house? These might seem normal questions for foreigners, but in France many people will consider them rude - as French writer Ilana Levy explains.

Is it true that the French don't like to talk about money?

When you have just met someone and want to learn more about them, it’s normal to ask questions about their life and situation – but in France there is one subject that is somewhat taboo; money.

If the French will easily complain about how much they spent on gas or groceries or how much their rent is, they will rarely tell the exact price they pay. Instead, they prefer talking about their mental health or giving details about their sexual encounters. 

This particular French habit is said to come from both Catholicism and peasant culture. The Bible tells us that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” and the Church pushed people to believe money should be taboo. After all, greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. 

In addition is the peasant theory; that you should hide your money otherwise people will get jealous and steal from you.

Whatever the reason, the French have a long history of keeping their income a secret. 

Pay packets

Around the world, many people don’t mind sharing their salary but in France, it definitely is considered presumptuous.

I asked a few French people how they feel about money.  “I would feel ashamed to tell someone how much money I make, especially if it is less than them,” said Alexia, a Parisian salesperson, told me.

“Moreover, some people are afraid to negotiate their salary and might end up earning less than their colleagues doing the same job. This is mainly why I would not talk about money at work,” she said. 

There is a real sense of prejudice because “people believe your salary reflects your education”, and “you would want to earn more than your friends, just for the pride,” explained Eleonore, a waitress.

Money is a private matter, she added, saying: “French people tend to deduce what you can and can’t have depending on how much you make a year, I would not want someone intruding on my privacy.”

Unsophisiticated

One thing French people hate more than anything is showing off. There is a real contempt for the ‘nouveau riche‘, someone coming from the middle class whose fortune is newly acquired and considered unsophisticated.

Showing you are wealthy is not considered classy, the French tend to still associate money with refinement.

This is personified in ex president Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who enjoyed wealth and luxury and was nicknamed the ‘bling-bling president’ by French people who considered his enthusiasm for money unsophisticated.

Tense 

Money is a real issue for the French, according to a January 2022 survey by Harris Interactive, money has already been the subject of disputes for 50 percent of them, most often within couples.

The same survey reveals that only 44 percent of people know the income of at least one of their friends, and they rather not ask the question. 

A generational issue? 

So is the taboo around money changing with the generations?

In my experience people in their 20s – like me – still consider it rude to show off their wealth, especially with the energy and financial crisis going on, but they are not afraid of discussing salaries.

“I don’t mind telling someone how much I make, I know it is not much, but we all have money issues,’ Etan told me. However, he added: “My parents would never tell me if they have issues.” 

But things are changing – the Church is not as influential as in the past, and people are not hiding their money under their mattress anymore. Moreover, the Covid crisis also seems to have encouraged the French to negotiate their salary: “I would never have negotiated my salary if I did not know that they needed people. It made me feel more confident about my income,” added Ethan.

 

Overall, the older generation still considers money a taboo in France, mainly because it is a tradition. The younger generation seems more open to discussing income – perhaps due to contact with other cultures and foreign people.

Ilana Levy is a bilingual freelance journalist living in Paris.

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