As California’s aging population grows, finding housing is a major concern for seniors, given the rising cost of housing and the wave of retirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And in the Bay Area, the already high cost of living makes it even harder for seniors to find housing. Local aging agencies have long provided housing support to seniors and continue to help them navigate the housing search.
For instance, Contra Costa County’s Area Agency on Aging receives frequent calls from seniors “on the verge of eviction” or seeking a place to live, according to the agency’s program manager Ana Bagtas.
“Rising housing costs coupled with the lack of affordable housing available make older adults on fixed income especially vulnerable to displacement,” Bagtas said via email.
In the last two years, Bagtas said calls to the county’s Information & Assistance helpline, the central call center where seniors can get connected to resources and support, increased by about 11 percent.
Similarly, in San Mateo County, housing has been a challenge for those who want to age in place at home and those who want to move into an affordable facility, according to Lisa Mancini, director of San Mateo County Health’s Aging and Adult Services.
“Living in our county, you can be house rich, but cash poor,” Mancini said, which sometimes impacts people’s abilities to get the support they need as they age.
For example, the county’s In-Home Supportive Services program, as described online, “provides homecare services to Medi-Cal eligible aged, blind or individuals with disabilities, including children, to assist them to remain safely in their own homes as an alternative to out-of-home care.”
But it excludes potentially low-income seniors who are above the Medi-Cal income limit but still cannot afford other housing options.
“It’s quite challenging if you might be living on Social Security and maybe just have another source of income, be it a pension or something else, that puts you above that Medi-Cal eligibility,” Mancini said.
When it comes to finding senior housing, Mancini and Bagtas both recommended that people connect with their local senior services hotline to chat about housing options.
And Bagtas offered this advice when choosing a living facility: “Make a list of what the facility ‘must have’ to serve one’s needs versus amenities that are ‘nice to have’ but are not required.”
Then, Bagtas recommended that people start vetting facilities, arrange a tour or visit unannounced to get a feel for the day-to-day life and chat with residents.
The state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which has local offices, also supports residents at living facilities with day-to-day issues and can be a source of extra information for those seeking housing.
Across California, there are over 7,000 licensed elder care facilities with a total capacity of 196,371 people, according to data from the California Department of Social Services, which licenses facilities through its Community Care Licensing Division.
Senior Service Helplines in the Bay Area
Alameda County Senior Information & Assistance team
Contra Costa County Area Agency on Aging Information & Assistance Helpline
Empowered Aging, Contra Costa County’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Marin County Aging and Adult Information and Assistance Line
Monterey County Area Agency on Aging Senior Helpline
Napa County Senior Information and Assistance
San Francisco Human Services Agency Disability and Aging Services
San Joaquin County Department of Aging and Community Services
San Mateo County Health Aging and Adult Services hotline
Santa Clara County Department of Aging and Adult Services
Napa/Solano Area Agency on Aging
Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging Information & Assistance Line
Check out the Local News Matters’ Aging in the Bay Area hub for more resources and information.