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Guest View: State’s aging population requires more cooperation

Lorrie Sharon and Jim Shulman • Updated Apr 14, 2018 at 3:00 PM

We all want to stay healthy and independent as we get older. Adopting healthy habits and behaviors, staying involved in one’s community, using preventive services and managing health conditions can contribute to healthy aging. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability prioritized healthy aging by promoting affordable, accessible and suitable housing options that allow older adults to age in place or remain living in their own home and community safely, independently and comfortably. Beyond important for individuals, communities that want to thrive should provide opportunities for people as they grow up and as they grow older.

Both THDA and TCAD recognize the importance of aging in place and strive to make Tennessee a state in which it is great to grow older. As a whole, Tennessee’s population is aging. TCAD recently published its “State of Aging in Tennessee: A County by County Snapshot” that showed the projected population growth of seniors in the next 15 years using county-level data. The report and interactive chart is at tn.gov/aging/administration/forms-and-publications/the-state-of-aging-in-tennessee.html. 

For example, Wilson County’s senior population is projected to grow by 51 percent by 2030. Residents who are seniors have greater needs for accessible buildings, health care and assistance with the activities of daily living.

One of these challenges is safe, accessible and affordable housing. As the state’s leading housing resource, THDA aspires to meaningfully expand housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Tennesseans, including older adults, across the state. THDA has researched and published an in-depth report on the need for older adult housing in Tennessee at amazonaws.com/thda.org/Documents/Research-Planning/Research-Publications/Older-Adult-Housing-Report.pdf. The research shows most housing in Tennessee, especially units occupied by older adults, is not accessible to those with mobility issues. The medical cost to treat injuries from falling far exceeds the average cost of the home modifications needed to avoid falls. 

Some older adults need supportive services at home – some medical, some non-medical – and the cost of providing these is much less than the cost of nursing home care. 

These are just a couple of examples of how our communities would benefit from better coordination between the housing sector and the health care sector. The clock is ticking, and decisions must be made to have communities where individuals can age in place in the community where they have spent their lives in a place they call home. Together, with your help and the help of our partners, THDA and TCAD will continue in our efforts to make significant strides in this work. 

To join this conversation, you are invited to participate in the Tennessee Housing Conference hometown series meeting May 19 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Murfreesboro Embassy Suites. Visit tnhousingconference.com for more information.

Lorrie Shearon is the chief strategy officer for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, and Jim Shulman is executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. 


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