By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published February 11, 2019
“By 2030, one in every five Americans will be over age 65 and our nation will face a severe shortage in appropriate housing to meet their needs.”
I received a very distressing phone call recently from a mother in her 70s asking for help. Her spouse had passed away and she was desperately searching for affordable housing for her and an adult disabled son. She had no other children or relatives in the area.
She sold her home and moved into a small apartment community with few amenities, especially for her son. She had explored several of the trendy senior assisted living communities springing up all over metro Atlanta, but they were beyond her financial means. She asked a simple question, “Are there any affordable senior communities that offer amenities and a higher quality of life?”
This request is not unique. According to the AARP Foundation, “As people age, they need housing that is structurally and mechanically safe and that accommodates people with disabilities. Those 50 and older also need safe communities, adequate transportation options and access to grocery stores, doctors and communities’ activities.”
Options to consider
I’ll add that in addition to these commonly sought-after amenities, Catholic seniors should also strongly consider proximity to a parish. Keeping close parish ties helps ensure frequent sacramental participation and life-long faith formation which is especially important as seniors age and experience a variety of challenges. Parishes also offer ongoing opportunities for fellowship and senior-focused activities to help seniors stay connected and active.
We were able to identify two affordable housing options for seniors that offer some nice amenities. If you or a relative or friend is seeking affordable senior housing, you could explore these options.
First, Mercy Housing Southeast offers several well-appointed, affordable residences across the region for seniors, low-income families and people with special needs. One of its newest facilities, Senior Residences at Mercy Park in Chamblee, boasts 79 apartment homes for seniors 62 or older, including some units designated for eligible veterans under the Affordable Housing Program. This award-winning property sits adjacent to Mercy Care-Chamblee, a large primary care clinic, and is within two blocks of MARTA.
Each Mercy Housing facility has its own unique amenities and eligibility requirements. To learn more, go to www.mercyhousing.org/southeast or call 404-873-3887.
Another option is St. Joseph Place, a retirement community affiliated with Catholic Charities of Atlanta. Located on a six-acre tract adjoining the Village of St. Joseph and Most Blessed Sacrament Church, this property offers affordable, independent living in a quiet, wooded setting. Minutes from downtown Atlanta, each of the 47 one-story apartment homes has a private entrance and fully-equipped kitchen. For information, including income restrictions, go to https://catholiccharitiesatlanta.org/st-joseph-place/.
Not to be overlooked is the possibility of living with relatives, an emerging trend in senior housing. According to Pew Research, approximately one in five Americans (20 percent) over age 55 now lives in multi-generational homes. This is particularly prevalent among Hispanic and Asian cultures.
For some, living under one roof allows seniors to help with childcare, support family faith formation, assist with household tasks and contribute financially. For others, this option supports seniors as they increasingly require care themselves.
Some seniors are reluctant to leave their family homestead where they’ve lived for many decades. There is an attachment that is difficult to break because of the treasure chest of memories and the difficulty adjusting to a major lifestyle change.
In some instances the children or grandchildren are moving back into the home to help care for their parents or grandparents while taking advantage of a lower cost of living since a great many family homes are free of mortgages.
While these options are a starting point, clearly, there is a growing need in the area and nationally for additional affordable, amenity-rich housing for seniors of all income levels. Please drop me a note if you know of other options available to seniors.
Let us pray that each of our lives will be blessed with family, friends and resources as we age right up to the point where we pass through the veil to eternity.
Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Faith Formation and Discipleship. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.