If the United States wants to become more age-friendly, it must do a better job of addressing the affordable housing needs of older Americans, Cathy A. Bollinger, managing director of Embracing Aging, a program of the York County Community Foundation in Pennsylvania, told members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging at a hearing Wednesday.

The hearing’s focus was “Aging with Community: Building Connections that Last a Lifetime.”

“Embracing Aging sees quality housing as the lynchpin to aging well,” Bollinger said. “York County has a shortage of low-income and affordable housing for older adults. There are 878 people on waiting lists for 782 low-income apartments and over 1,000 people on the waiting list for 1,173 affordable housing apartments.”

The top priority of the federal government, she said, should be to provide funding for planners and developers to preserve and build more low-income/affordable housing with supportive services as well as address the transportation needs of older adults, improve the walkability of communities and provide incentives for municipalities to address blighted properties.

“The federal government can leverage better planning as it approves and awards types of funding for affordable housing,” Bollinger said. “Applicants should have to demonstrate that the building sites identified for new or rehab construction with a period of affordability are fully integrated into community systems, accessible to critical services and with a certain level of walkability. A senior affordable housing project built about 10 years ago in southern York County is a prime example of federally funded isolation. It is miles from a grocery store as well as other services.”

Initiatives such as Embracing Aging lack the funding required for infrastructure changes, she said, but could partner with various levels of government to affect change.

“We need the federal government to lead by example in being a fully committed partner in this work,” Bollinger said. “Your focus on making America a great place to age speaks volumes to other levels of government, as well as to community stakeholders.”