Organization targets lack of affordable housing for seniors


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An effort that helped find homes for a group of seniors whose community was sold off is now spawning a new initiative to help more people in that age group find affordable housing in Nashville.

“It seems like so long ago now, it’s been a whirlwind,” Danielle Cotton said. Her maternal grandmother was one of the residents of North Park Village Senior Community in Madison when they were told they had 60 days to find a new home. “They had to move from their community of seniors which many had been in for several years, five to 10 plus. And, you know, as a senior, it was very difficult to have this news to have to move and uproot their lives in less than 60 days.”

North Park Village had been home to low-income seniors for more than 60 years before leaders announced to staff and residents in January that it would cease operations on March 16, 2022. While the management company was held to give only 30 days notice, residents said at the time that they were heartbroken and struggling to find a new place to live. In a statement to News 2, North Park Village leaders said property taxes, payroll, utilities and maintenance played a role in the decision to sell.

“Trying to find her [grandmother] new placement, we became advocates for this whole community,” Cotton said.

She explained that the experience highlighted the barriers older people face.

“They are the pillars of our community. They are the cornerstone, they are the foundation. And if we forget the foundations and pillars while we’re building, the building will surely collapse,” said Cotton’s mother, Karen Holder. “They started the growth of Nashville, honestly, we stood on their shoulders. So throwing them away and forgetting them is just a travesty. And I don’t think Nashville wants to be part of it.

Seniors tend to live on fixed incomes, which creates barriers to finding housing. They found that many communities had income restrictions and waiting lists longer than three years. It was also difficult to find independent and affordable seniors’ residences.

“A lot of our seniors, they’re not ready for assisted living,” Holder said. “Like my mother, for example, she was not ready for an elderly tower or an assisted living facility. She is still very dynamic, still very independent. But she needs accessibility for mobility restrictions, things like that.

All residents of North Park Village have since been placed in new homes. Cotton and Holder are now starting an organization called AWAKE Nashville, AWAKE being an acronym for Advocacy for Well-Being, Accessibility, and Awareness of the Injustice Faced by Older Adults.

They held a community camaraderie event this past weekend to bring together former residents of North Park as part of their goal to improve the well-being of Nashville’s senior communities through camaraderie, fun and social commitment.

“It was great to see everyone engaging together, it was great to see all the residents back with their community in Madison,” Cotton said. “Just to see the youngsters engage with the seniors, it was such a great sight to see.”

Cotton and Holder said AWAKE Nashville is partnering with Nashville-based development, construction and property management firm Legacy South to help make affordable housing more accessible to older Davidson County residents. Their first initiative is to create a funding program to incentivize developers to build more independent and affordable living villas for low-income seniors.

“We had no intention of starting an organization, but we saw a great need,” Cotton said. “We were thrilled to launch your organization to become advocates for this community, especially when it comes to affordable housing.”

The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability’s latest aging plan found that between 2021 and 2031, the number of seniors in Tennessee over the age of 60 is expected to drop from 1.66 million to 1.93 million. million.


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