Editorial: Recognize the need for low-income senior housing – TribLIVE

The percentage of people over 65 living in poverty is not as high as it used to be.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the slice of the senior population living in the lowest income brackets has dropped by two-thirds over the last 50 years. In 2019, it was just 8.9% of that age group.

The problem? We have an aging population.
In Pennsylvania alone, there are almost
2.4 million people over 65. That translates to more people falling into that poverty demographic. The percentage might be getting smaller, but the numbers still are growing.

That means more services are needed for low-income seniors. Not just long-term nursing beds or personal care homes. Plenty of older people are more than capable of taking care of themselves. They just need to have a place to do so.

This is why there is a need for low-income housing targeted for seniors — such as the
$14 million one planned in Irwin by the Westmoreland County Housing Authority.

People in Irwin, however, are not exactly thrilled. Michael Washowich, executive director of the authority, will be coming to the borough’s July 14 meeting to discuss the project.

The 50-unit structure would be built on 17 undeveloped acres off Laurel Avenue. Eight units are to be dedicated to veteran use.

But Irwin Councilwoman Leslie Savage said there has been negative comments and questions about the project. Her own questions are about costs it could incur for the borough, including transportation subsidies.

Then there is a potential expansion later that would cross into North Huntingdon. Borough Manager Shari Martino said more information needs to be shared between the authority and the two municipalities.

Information and communication is almost always the root of these problems, no matter what agencies are involved.

While the logistics of the projects and estimates for future impact on municipal budgets are important, that is only half of the story. The elected officials — and the residents — also need to be given information about the current and anticipated senior populations in a state where that over-65 age bracket just keeps growing.

Everyone needs to understand not just what is on the table but why. Clear and concise communication should help cut through typical “not in my backyard” arguments or fears about the bottom line.