Affordable Housing for Seniors

by Glenda Taylor

With age comes wisdom--but also reduced mobility and the need for affordable housing that allows seniors to live safely and with dignity. Many Americans work, pay into Social Security and put a little money aside every month to help finance their retirement years. Unfortunately, with inflation, that money does not stretch as far as it once did.


Historically, elderly persons had three choices: move into a full-care nursing home facility, live with a family member or live alone in a less-than-suitable environment. With the inception of elderly advocate groups, lawmakers are now aware of the vital need to supplement senior housing. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a powerful lobby in Congress that has been a major factor in increased housing options for seniors (see Resources below).


Because not all seniors have the same housing requirements, different types of housing allow them to choose what is right for their situation. Public housing units, available through the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency are located in many communities and feature handicapped access. Independent living units and retirement communities broaden the options for mobile seniors. Contact HUD to see if you qualify for assistance (see Resources below).


The goal of affordable senior housing programs is to provide safe housing to all seniors, despite their ability to pay. Most government-funded programs target low income seniors but through the AARP, seniors receive educational services about reverse mortgages, how to remain in their own home longer with remodeling options and how to locate local programs that offer assistance to seniors (see Resources below).


Keeping senior housing affordable means offering units with disability access and a design that enables the elderly to function with the least amount of assistance. Patio homes, constructed on one level with wider doorways, lower cabinet access and expanded bathing options keep seniors independent longer. In-unit alarms allow residents to call for assistance in case of an emergency.


Encouraging seniors to remain at home or to live with a family member reduces premature admission into a full-care nursing facility. With this in mind, the idea of housing, constructed with Universal Design elements is catching on with builders. Universal Design homes allow residents to remain in the same house without remodeling (see Resources below).

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