Growing older is often described as “entering your golden years,” but for many seniors being able to remain in the home and neighborhood that they’ve enjoyed for decades can be tough. That’s true in many cities around the U.S, including Kansas City.
In April, AARP released its new online rating tool that ranks nearly every neighborhood in the United States on its suitability for aging-in-place, using factors such as ease of getting around and public policies that promote aging, and Kansas City failed to make the cut. For example, ZIP Code 64108 earned a ranking of just 54 out of 100.
NeighborWorks America is a trusted resource for helping seniors make safe, informed and healthy choices, including aging in their own homes. That’s why this week NeighborWorks America is conducting a national symposium in Kansas City to identify and promote strategies for enabling a larger number of older Americans to live in the homes and communities they’ve grown to love. The symposium is a part of the NeighborWorks Training Institute, a week-long program that has drawn more than 2,100 people to the city.
The need for a focus on the housing and service needs of older Americans can’t be overstated. By 2030, one in five U.S. adults will be 65 or older. According to AARP, nearly 90 percent of seniors want or find it necessary to stay in their own homes as they age. While for some it is a matter of preference, for others it is a financial necessity: one in five seniors are severely cost-burdened — spending at least 50 percent of his or her monthly income on housing.
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Our symposium will explore innovative housing options for older adults; financial programming, such as guidance on retirement planning and avoiding mortgage scams; and new options for accommodating the changing service needs of seniors, including healthcare and transportation. Whether seniors decide to age in place, NeighborWorks organizations are helping older adults make the right choice for them.
Housing is just one part of the aging in place equation. As a network, NeighborWorks organizations work in partnership with other sectors to identify the needs of local seniors and provide solutions to the challenges they face in living independently in the neighborhoods they love.
Part of aging in place is maintaining affordability. With costs of many essentials rising, seniors on fixed income, and even those who have a nest-egg of home equity, often are looking for opportunities to spend wisely. Unfortunately, there are financial predators who are scheming to take advantage of seniors and others. Seniors are especially at high risk for scams because the equity in their homes makes them attractive to con artists. NeighborWorks has learned that, for a variety of reasons, older adults are less likely to report a fraud.
NeighborWorks is working to change that. NeighborWorks America launched the Loan Modification Scam Alert Campaign in 2009, which empowers seniors and other homeowners to protect themselves against mortgage scams and find trusted help. If someone is a victim of a loan modification scam, they can call the Homeowner’s Hope Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673). Our data reports that seniors, Latinos, and African Americans make up more than 60 percent of complaints on scams that the campaign receives.
The burgeoning aging population in Kansas City and around the country will have increasingly insufficient social security, pensions and savings to support the day-to-day expenses of aging in place. Safe, comfortable housing must remain an option. The solutions are out there. It’s the job of all of us to spread the word and ensure that the golden years of all older Americans aren’t tarnished.
John Santner is regional vice president of NeighborWorks America.