Golden Girls-Inspired Housing Offers Home Care, Affordability

Seniors in Nashville, Tennessee, seeking a manageable home environment could live out their golden years in a rental housing program that combines affordable housing with home care services.

Drawing inspiration from the sitcom “The Golden Girls,” the HouseShare Nashville program was created by independent real estate investor Mary Wester and launched by Nashville home care service Caregivers by WholeCare. The idea was sparked not from television, however, but from Wester’s experience moving her parents into a duplex in Independence, Iowa, to keep them closer to family.

The program aims to provide seniors with community while addressing the need for affordable housing units in the area, Elizabeth Moss, the founder of Caregivers by WholeCare, told Home Health Care News.

“It’s a desirable environment because they can age in place and in community, which is a trending term,” she said.

The program features a furnished duplex property with six bedrooms, two full baths, two half-baths, living and dining areas, and handicap-accessible features. The cost ranges from $1,500 to $2,500 per month. Included in the program costs are services from Caregivers by WholeCare.

The concierge caregiving services for HouseShare residents is modeled after a program Caregivers by WholeCare runs in independent living communities, Moss said.

“It’s shared costs and that it’s a shared caregiver,” she explained. “So rather than the typical industry four-hour minimum that agencies require to send a caregiver to an individual’s home, when there’s a caregiver in the home of multiple residents then we can share that time of the caregiver and share the costs.”

The program, which launched in December, currently has no participants, though Wester said social services in metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County are interested in meeting with her with a possible eye to making referrals.

With a third of seniors in Nashville living alone, according to the U.S. Census, a program like HouseShare could provide community as well as an affordable way to stay in a home environment and receive needed services. Wester’s parents’ own move to a duplex allowed them to avoid going into assisted living, but many other seniors aren’t as lucky.

“Either they stay in their home when they shouldn’t be, or they are going to assisted living, which is very expensive,” Wester said. “Maybe they don’t need that level. There needs to be an in-between level.”

Assisted living is widespread in the Bellevue neighborhood of Nashville, where the HouseShare property is located, Wester said. But the cost— which can be as high as $6,000 a month, she noted— is an issue for many people. The Nashville area needs approximately new 30,000 affordable housing units, a problem exacerbated by gentrification in the city and Davidson County, according to Moss. In addition, the population is drastically aging in the Bellevue neighborhood, which factored into Wester’s decision to establish the first HouseShare property there.

They still need to find residents, however, which is a problem when the program is arranged to be cheaper when the house has six people in it. With six residents, rent and a basic safety package of caregiving services from Caregivers by WholeCare costs $500 per person per month, Moss said. With four people, the monthly cost per person rises to $750; with two people, it’s $900.

Still, the high cost of assisted living and the benefits of independent living make Wester and Moss optimistic there will be interest in the program.

“It’s not a big-box place,” Wester said. “If they want to go outside and plant a garden, fine! If they want to go outside and barbecue, if they want to do woodworking outside or they want to paint something outside, do some activity or whatever, they’re going to be allowed to do that. It’s home.”

Written by Maggie Flynn

Maggie Flynn on Linkedin
Maggie Flynn
Business reporter at Aging Media Network
When she's not working, Maggie enjoys running, reading, writing and sports, in no particular order. Favorite things include murder mysteries, Lake Michigan and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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