The United States is growing older.
Soon, people over the age of 60 will outnumber those under the age of five for the first time in history. Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65, and Georgia is home to one of the nation’s fastest-aging populations.
Despite a prosperous economy, Georgia’s older adults are experiencing a housing crisis due to a significant shortage of affordable housing options that provide the services, support and physical accommodations needed to age well.
The housing crisis for older adults will only get worse as Georgia’s population continues to grow. According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, 70 percent of older adults will need assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating. Roughly 60 percent of older adults will encounter challenges with mobility.
There is a great deal of focus on health care, as there should be, but health care does not begin in the ER or the doctor’s office.
Safe, affordable housing is a critical factor in measuring the social determinants of health,
especially for older adults. It’s vital that communities across Georgia prepare for greater
demands on aging resources in the decades ahead.
In my 27 years of work in elder care, I’ve come to believe that aging has a fulfilling purpose in life. Our society is strong to the extent our elders are valued. There is no more fundamental way to value older adults than to provide opportunities for them to live safe, purposeful lives where they can be engaged in the community.
The implications of a rapidly growing older population will have a significant impact on our communities. For very low-income seniors, Medicaid is the only comprehensive option to receive supportive services and the program is vastly overburdened. As of 2017, almost 8,000 Georgians were on a waiting list for subsidized housing.
Seniors accustomed to a middle-class income will usually not qualify for safety-net programs like Medicaid, yet appropriate services are often out of financial reach. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that a 55-year-old man with an annual income of $65,000 and no savings must begin immediately saving 13 percent of his income each year to have a 50 percent chance of living longer than his assets. A similarly situated woman must save 18.5 percent of her income after 55 to hope for the same outcome.
Here in Newnan, Wesley Woods of Newnan is on the front lines of ending the housing crisis among Georgia’s aging population. We work to promote healthy aging through wellness programming and by providing a community where older adults can live as independently as possible.
The Newnan community has welcomed Wesley Woods with open arms, demonstrated by the engagement of area schools, volunteers and churches of all denominations. As we work to serve over 1,000 mothers statewide, we are deeply grateful for the support of the Newnan community.
As Mother’s Day approaches this year, I encourage you to think about those who are aging in your life and how you can help them prepare for the future. So many of us are accustomed to mothers helping us grow, but as time goes on, many mothers will need more of our support as they age.
This Mother’s Day, I encourage you to reach to those who helped you grow throughout your life, and I hope you will recognize your role in helping them age with grace.
Terry L. Barcroft
Wesley Woods Senior Living