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Commentary: Insights lawmakers and leaders must consider on housing Md.’s older adults

Photo by Magdalena Strakova/EyeEm/ Getty Images.

By Allison Ciborowski

The writer is the president & CEO of LeadingAge Maryland, a membership organization representing not-for-profit aging services providers who work to ensure older adults have access to the services they need, when they need them, at home. 

There is not enough affordable housing for low-income older adults in our state. Given that those 60 and older represent the fastest growing segment of Maryland’s population, more needs to be done to ensure no older adult is left behind.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 22% of Maryland’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030. This is a 26% increase from 2012. At the same time, the number of older adults who are cost-burdened is at an all-time high in our country, and recent research has highlighted that those 65 and older are at a significantly higher risk of homelessness than other age groups. (Many of those 65 and older with low income are severely housing cost burdened — spending more than half their income on housing.)

The demand for affordable senior housing far outpaces the supply. Our members report that many age and income qualified older Marylanders wait one to eight years to move into an affordable senior housing community.

We are glad Gov. Wes Moore’s administration has announced its commitment to tackle the affordable housing crisis in Maryland and believe more can be done to incorporate the needs of older Marylanders. Though there have been many affordable housing-related bills introduced during this legislative session, none address this issue head on. However, we are hopeful that some of the bills may prove beneficial for not-for-profit developers and operators of affordable senior housing including, House Bill 538/Senate Bill 484, which addresses zoning density and permitting.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University’s 2023 “Housing America’s Older Adults” report examined many factors that affect housing, care affordability, and accessibility for older adults. Along with housing, access to services and care are crucial to help individuals maintain health and independence as they grow old. Unfortunately, there is often inadequate funding and programs needed to provide affordable services and care.

Affordable senior housing can help close this gap. These communities serve as a platform for delivering critical supportive services that help older adults live healthier, more independent lives. This includes services like transportation, case management, information and referral services, healthcare services, grocery delivery, regular meals — all of which contribute to improved health and wellbeing. In 2023 alone, affordable senior housing providers in Maryland assisted older adults who live in their buildings with securing tens of thousands of services.

The Department of Aging under Secretary Carmel Roques’ leadership is already taking important steps to evaluate existing programs and explore new ways to support older Marylanders, in conjunction with Gov. Moore’s recently announced Longevity Ready Maryland Initiative. We applaud their efforts. We urge the Department of Housing and Community Development and other policymakers involved in allocation of state-funded housing initiatives to ensure that housing affordability and accessibility for older Marylanders are considered and addressed.

What a perfect time to ensure no older adult is left behind than under the leadership of Gov. Moore. Each of us is aging, and if we are lucky, will get to experience old age. Let’s work together to ensure every older Marylander has opportunities to live well.


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Commentary: Insights lawmakers and leaders must consider on housing Md.’s older adults