Realities of Retirement Low-income housing one of many issues faced by boomers

Members of CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting gather to testify in Annapolis on behalf of the Maryland Department of Aging.

Members of CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting gather to testify in Annapolis on behalf of the Maryland Department of Aging.

Fact; More and more, members of the baby-boomer generation — those born between 1946 and 1964 — are retiring. From now until Jan. 1, 2030, about 10,000 of them will turn 65 every day, according to a Pew Research study. And the reality of retiring can throw curveballs that not everyone is ready to handle, especially on the where-am-I-going-to-live front.

“Weinberg Senior Living is an affordable housing resource by design and is for low-income seniors,” said Mitchell Posner, executive director of Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. “There is an insatiable demand regardless of economy, and we’re blessed to be able to have 1,700 apartments.”

CHAI, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, has 15 independent-living buildings and one assisted-living building, all of which use a “service coordination model,” according to Cindy Zonies, director of resident services at Weinberg Senior Living.

Posner added that there are several reasons an individual may look into low-income housing: one example being individuals whose savings were negatively impacted by the recession. This means working longer to recover.

“Every resident has access to a service coordinator, and we have partnered with Jewish Community Services,” said Zonies. “JCS has a presence in all of our buildings,
and it assists our residents with needs they have as they age to keep them independent.”

Zonies added that Weinberg homes offer a variety of services such as a subsidized eating program, transportation to grocery stores, malls and restaurants and educational, social and intergenerational programming.

Posner and Zonies emphasized that there is ongoing wait list, and applicants are better off getting on the list early so they will be prepared for the day when they may be in need of low-income housing.

However, some Pew Research studies have shown that many baby boomers desire occasional assistance but don’t want to move to another residence.

In an effort to help baby boomers do just this, CHAI established a Supportive Community Network several years ago that aims to create a self-sustaining village, where “people come together to provide volunteer services and support for each other,” according to its website.

Among other services, SCN encompasses Northwest Neighbors Connecting, which links residents in nearby neighborhoods into an interdependent community that relies on each other.

“The purpose of Northwest Neighbors Connecting is to support older adults’ ability to age in place,” said Chava Ball, director of NNC. “With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, that’ll put a huge drain on our senior facilities, and, quite honestly, there won’t be enough. If we can provide resources to let people stay in their homes longer, it buys us a little time.”

Ball explained that NNC gives individuals a support network if they need assistance while maintaining their independence. A member might volunteer his or her time to drive another person to a doctor’s appointment or to go food shopping. While a ride to run an errand is just one example, members provide a wide variety of services and programming to each other.

“Northwest Neighbors Connecting is not built on us providing services, but allowing [members] to give and take whatever their particular need is,” said Ball.

Miriam Rittberg teaches a conversational English class to Russian seniors in Millbrook. Being a member of NNC, she heard CHAI was looking for volunteers, and being a retired teacher — who also enjoys meeting people from other countries — the position seemed like a good fit.

“This group is very eager to learn and a delight to work with. It’s not a job in any way; it’s just a pleasure to help them,” said Rittberg. “If they need to go to the doctor, then we learn the vocabulary [you use at a doctor’s] so they can feel more comfortable [in] taking care of what they need to do.”

NNC has been established in the Cheswolde, Cross Country, Glen, Fallstaff and Mount Washington neighborhoods. And, according to Village to Village, a national organization that assists in creating communities such as NNC, a new community is being developed in Pikesville, northwest of the I-695 entrance.

Ball said that when individuals have all their decisions made for them, it lessens their purpose to carry on. NNC, in part, aims to combat this.

“The longer they can maintain their ability to choose, in my opinion, it is an advantage,” she said.

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