RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – A new report that warns of dire consequences if the housing needs of America’s growing senior population aren’t met underscores one of our country’s most pressing public health concerns, the head of one of the nation’s largest nonprofit community builders said Thursday.
“We cannot afford to sit idly when it comes to meeting the needs of our senior citizens, who increasingly find themselves with their backs against the wall when it comes to having a roof over their heads,” said Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rancho Cucamonga-based National Community Renaissance (National CORE). “We need public policy that supports and encourages attainable, affordable housing with integrated health-care and supportive services. We also cannot wait for the federal or state government to solve this. Local government needs to act now.”
The report, “Healthy Aging Begins at Home,” was developed over the past year by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force. It notes that America’s senior population is set to expand dramatically over the next 15 years, and that by 2030, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. The report warns that this explosive growth will place unprecedented strains on our nation’s fiscal, health care and housing systems.
“Without a comprehensive national approach to integrating health care and housing, far too many seniors will face undue health, home and financial stresses during their most vulnerable years,” said Task Force Co-Chair Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary.
The nexus between housing and health is something National CORE and its Hope through Housing Foundation partners have been evangelizing for years.
Ciriaco “Cid” Pinedo, President of Hope through Housing, described it as a national crisis.
“Successful aging requires a commitment to home- and community-based supportive services, and at the center of all of that is affordable shelter,” Pinedo said. “Without that – without the ability to live in a home they can call their own – emotional and physical challenges grow. Independent living needs to be a safe, realistic option, and increasingly, it is not.”
The report recommends four key action steps: 1) Building affordable housing for seniors; 2) making homes and communities age-friendly; 3) integrating health care and supportive service with housing; and 4) promoting widespread adoption of health technologies to support healthy aging.
PonTell said the National CORE and Hope through Housing models offer a roadmap.
“We’ve demonstrated that shelter and services go hand in hand in transforming lives and communities,” PonTell said. “As a nation, we’ve got to stop operating in silos. Each of the areas identified in the report are – and need to be – interconnected if we’re going to make a measureable impact.”
Collaboration also will go a long way toward reducing health-care costs. As an example, the report encourages Medicare and other federal programs to make reducing at-home falls among seniors a major priority. Each year, one in three older adults fall, resulting in about $34 billion in annual health care costs.
“Health care leaders must work to accelerate the integration of health care and housing,” said Allyson Schwartz, Task Force Co-Chair. “The well-being and safety of millions of Americans are at stake.”
About Hope through Housing and National CORE
The Hope through Housing Foundation and National Community Renaissance, both based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., manage and serve affordable, senior and special-needs housing communities in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. For more information on both organizations, please visit www.nationalcore.org