By Ann Thompson
No matter our age, we all crave a place to call our own that is comfortable and secure, has friends close by, and affords privacy when we want it. We do not “outgrow” the desire for these things. But, sometimes, after the paychecks stop coming and the savings account dwindles, seniors wonder what’s next. How will they afford a place of their own? What are their options?
Over 50 years ago, the Housing Act of 1959 became law. The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program was established by the Act to provide affordable rental housing with supportive services for the elderly, so they can continue to age in place with dignity and independence.
My first introduction to Supportive Housing for the Elderly was in 1972 when my Aunt Mary Jane moved to such a property. My aunt, a retired school teacher with no children of her own and living in a Jacksonville suburb, had been widowed the year before. At the time she announced to me that she was making the move, I was recently out of college and newly married. I could not imagine her moving from her home, the hometown she had grown up in, and her longtime friends. Despite my personal reservations, the move was the right decision for her. In hindsight, I believe that it allowed her to expand her horizons, meet new people, have new experiences, and find a way to stay connected and involved. She volunteered in the community, she joined a travel group and went to many parts of the country she wanted to visit, and she had easy access to arts and entertainment events.
It was her home for 17 years. As she needed additional services, such as housekeeping, help with transportation, home health care, and meals delivered to her home, those services were available there. She was able to remain in a comfortable, safe environment, surrounded by neighbors who had become like family to her.
Over 8,000 Section 202 properties have been developed across the country with over 390,000 units for seniors to rent. These senior communities are located in every part of the country, including such places as rural Dowling Park, Florida and in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The properties are developed, owned and operated by faith-based, fraternal, or other not-for-profit organizations.
Some senior communities admit individuals into their 202s who pay fair market rent due to their income, but in most cases, here is how the Section 202 rents are calculated for persons who are eligible:
The 202 program is designed to serve persons of at least 62 years of age with low to moderate income. The average age of residents in 202 housing is 79 and the average income is around $10,000 annually.
The rent that the senior pays is based on their income and assets, minus an allowance for medical expenses. Adjustments are made based on allowances for documented medical expenses and health insurance. The income eligibility limits vary by state and location and are available at www.hud.gov, or by contacting the local housing authority or a Section 202 property where you would like to live.
The rent a senior would pay for a Section 202 property is a figure based on 30% of the adjusted annual income. For example, a person receiving $10,000 a year with $1,200 in medical expenses a year deducted would pay approximately $220 a month for rent.
My chosen career path has always been in service to the elderly. After watching my aunt thrive in her senior community, I became a believer and supporter of the concept of senior community living. In fact, in 1985 I became the Administrator of the community where she lived, and for the next 20 years, served in that capacity, witnessing again and again how that kind of community life promotes good health and involvement, and provides access to services.
Ten years ago, I joined the staff of Advent Christian Village as Vice President for Member Services. Here, I continue to see the positive effects of living in a senior community where quality care, compassion and respect for the individual is the mission of the organization.
If you know of a senior who would benefit from affordable housing with services and amenities designed to meet their needs, I encourage you to consider Advent Christian Village or to check with local organizations serving the senior community in your area.
About the author: Ann Thompson is Vice President for Member Services at Advent Christian Village, a post she has held since 2009. In this capacity, she is responsible for all programs and services for ACV’s members, including Social Services. Prior to her tenure at ACV, she spent 20 years as Administrator at Cathedral Residences in Jacksonville, Florida.