Communities Struggle to Meet Growing Senior Housing and Care Needs

Many local governments are unprepared to pay for the rising costs of their aging residents as demand for senior services grows, with conflicts over spending, services and zoning expected to increase, The Washington Post reported Monday.

For example, senior services in Fairfax County, Virginia, helped increase spending by about $43.8 million since 2014, according to an analysis by the Post. The elderly population in the county is projected to grow from 135,000 to 172,000 over the next eight years. Some of the funds went directly to senior services initiatives, including Fairfax’s 50-plus Community Action Plan, which focuses on social programs to aid aging in place.

To make ends meet, the county’s Board or Supervisors denied employee raises, police reforms and education funding requests, along with other decisions related to new revenue sources, the Post reported.


“We need to make sure that folks can continue to live within the community where they raised their families,” Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, told The Washington Post. “But we’re also doing so at a time when we’ve had the Great Recession and have had to make reductions across the board in all the services we provide.”

In addition, spending on emergency health care services related to seniors has significantly ballooned in the county, with patients 65 and older representing 40% of emergency call volume in Fairfax County.

National Implications  


As counties see more spending on senior services, many local governments are unprepared to meet the needs of their aging populations, according to Frank Shafroth, director of George Mason University’s Center for State and Local Government Leadership.

While local municipalities are spending more on these types of services, federal funding is declining. Since 2010, federal funding for senior citizen programs has decreased by approximately 19%, to just below $8 billion, according to The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. It could shrink further under President Donald Trump, the Post reported.

Down the road, local governments could see more conflicts related to zoning codes and roadway disputes if more seniors wind up in assisted living centers and nursing homes, Rodney Harrell, a public policy director at AARP, told the Post. He noted the majority of people want to remain in their communities as they age, but many communities are not designed to aid seniors in this ambition. 

“We’ve spent decades, and maybe even centuries, not planning for aging and designing for aging,” he told the Post.

Written by Maggie Flynn