Affordable housing in Nashville: Kicking grandma out
Everyone talks about Nashville’s affordable housing challenge as it relates to up and comers. What about those of us who have already come up (in age) and are experiencing the same struggles to maintain or find affordable homes?
As the city brainstorms, debates and plans how to address affordable housing in general, it is critical that older adults — a growing sector of the population — are given proper consideration.
Nashville’s seniors are very much alive, and for this growing population, home is certainly where its heart is.
Each day, an additional 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. In Davidson County, the population of those 65-plus is expected to double by 2040, with the most significant increase in those 85-plus.
Boomers with fixed incomes from Social Security and retirement benefits face rising housing costs, leaving less money for food, medications and essential health care.
AARP found seniors with the highest housing cost burdens spent 40 percent less on food than their counterparts in more affordable housing. In 2015 more than 28 percent of callers to United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline identified housing and related expenses as top needs.
Affordable housing springboards into a discussion on appropriately designed housing. Older adults prefer to remain in their homes — commonly referred to as aging in place — and if not in their home, then in their community.
A well-designed house that suits the life spectrum can accommodate supportive services and thereby extend how long older adults can remain in place. The overwhelming demographic shift requires the city and state to engage in advance planning for how houses being built now will be livable for those 65 and older in the future.
For seniors who will need to move, the average cost of an assisted living facility in Davidson and surrounding counties is $3,600 per month, with some at $5,000 per month. This is prohibitive for most seniors and caregivers, especially since this cost is not covered by Medicare.
The service portion of these facilities is covered by TennCare, but only for individuals in the CHOICES program who meet certain criteria. Senior apartments with sliding scale rent based on income are limited, with long waiting lists. The tightening rental market in Davidson and surrounding counties further restricts affordable options.
The Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee is a catalyst for innovative senior housing solutions such as cohesive, intergenerational living design. One example the council recently explored is the Genesis community in Washington, D.C. Genesis follows the Generations of Hope Community housing model, pairing older adults with single mothers, who both contract to help the other.
Instead of complaining, the Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee is getting to work. We sponsor workshops to educate consumers and their families on the decision-making process to move out of the home. COA partners with local organizations to showcase home modifications that can extend a person’s ability to age in place. The agency’s print and online Directory of Services for Seniors lists available housing options for Davidson and the surrounding counties.
This city’s blueprint for better housing for all must include Nashville’s emerging older adult population — which is not only living longer, but wants to do so in the comfort of their own homes. Our voice must be heard.
Vicki Harris is president of the Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee.
Nashville’s seniors are growing exponentially, but with limited resources and rising housing costs, they are feeling the crunch of the city’s boom.