A Senior Housing Sampler

December 04, 1990

In cities and suburbs across America, an array of housing designed for the elderly has sprung up to cope with the rapid graying of the population.

"Continuing-care retirement communities," group homes, "assisted-living" sheltered housing, subsidized senior housing, home-sharing arrangements all have proliferated, but still often fall far short of the demand.

In Anne Arundel County, the demand for every type of senior housing in every price range has outstripped the supply in recent years. Below is a sampling of some of the county's senior housing.

* Continuing care retirement community: Ginger Cove, the county's first such luxury retirement community, opened in Annapolis in 1988, offering housing, meals, housekeeping, social and medical services and full 24-hour health care when the need arises. The non-profit Ginger Cove charges minimum entrance fees of $115,000 and monthly fees starting at $1,155. The red-brick complex includes 243 "independent-living" units, 14 domiciliary care units and 29 comprehensive care beds, offering care similar to a nursing home.

Ginger Cove is Anne Arundel's only continuing-care retirement community.

Among the more affluent, demand for this sort of housing has grown throughout the county.

* "Sheltered" group homes, licensed board and care homes: These are usually individual houses whose operators are certified by the state and monitored by the county Department of Aging. Each home provides fewer than a dozen elderly residents three meals a day, housekeeping, help with grooming, bathing,laundry, housekeeping and other tasks when needed. About 20 such homes operate in the county. But finding a vacancy can be tough, and costs average around $1,500, with little public assistance available.

* Subsidized housing: Waiting lists often stretching three years confront seniors seeking subsidized housing in Anne Arundel County. And with federal money to build public housing dried up, the shortages of low-income options will grow, unless the state or county governments step in.

The Anne Arundel County Housing Authority runs five senior complexes with about 675 units. The Annapolis Housing Authority operates one exclusively senior community, with 127 units, but also places seniors in other family housing communities. Seniors also live in some of the 705 units of subsidized housing at four federally subsidized Section 8 housing communities.

* Moderate-income senior housing: Anne Arundel offers few alternatives to those who can't afford expensive retirement communities like Ginger Cove. The lack of affordable housing has squeezed many middle-income seniors and alarmed advocates of the elderly.

* Shared homes: Many communities have turned to "home-sharing," matching elderly residents who may need a hand around the house with others who can provide help and companionship. But the program has not gone over well in Anne Arundel, as many seniors seem reluctant to move into strangers' homes or take on strangers as housemates. Of dozens of potential matches and applications, only one such arrangement has succeeded.

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