Feature Stories

Age Strong Vermont Looks to Improve Housing for Older Vermonters

Vermont is a wonderful place to grow old and many are choosing to remain or move here for their golden years. Vermont continues to be in the top three oldest age states in the nation, always in contention with our Northern New England neighbors, Maine, and New Hampshire for the position of oldest state in the Nation.  For better or worse, our housing stock is also among the oldest in the nation. Our iconic 19th Century villages are filled with 19th Century vernacular homes.  As charming as they are, they tend to be ill suited for aging in place. Not only is our housing stock old, but we also have a dramatic shortage of homes, with experts saying that Vermont should have 30,000 to 40,000 additional homes to satisfy the current need. It’s no wonder that Vermont has the second highest rate of homelessness per capita in the nation, following only California.

The crucial piece for older Vermonters is the severe shortage of suitable housing. Suitable housing where all the activities of daily living are accessible and easy for occupants to use, where we can be connected to community for greater well-being and happiness, and where we can be close to essential services like health care and shopping. The lack of suitable housing keeps many of us in homes that no longer make sense. It is estimated 69% of households in Vermont consist of just 1 or 2 people, living in homes with at least three bedrooms all on three levels. But without suitable home options where are Vermonters to go?

The State recognizes that action is needed to make life better for Vermont’s older Vermonters and passed the Older Vermonters Act of 2020. From this Act, a new program called Age Strong Vermont was created. Age Strong Vermont seeks to go well beyond just housing issues, but it should be noted that creating Age Friendly Housing is a top priority of the program and is the common tie to other priorities such as Health and Wellness and Social Engagement. I had the chance to discuss Age Strong Vermont with program director Angela Smith-Dieng. According to Smith-Dieng, the true purpose of the program is to create a road map for local & state agencies, health-care providers, and related service organizations to align all the entities with the singular focus on promoting a higher quality of life for older Vermonters. The program recognizes the unique needs of seniors and seeks to provide a range of services, resources, and opportunities for greater well-being.

Angela Smith-Dieng noted that Age Strong Vermont does have a specific subcommittee on housing with state and local zoning departments involved in the process.  The work of this subcommittee had the potential to lead to changes in zoning that could pave the way for more development of age-friendly homes.

With the massive housing shortage and growing homeless population, creating more new homes that are suitable for older Vermonters is perhaps the best first step in breaking the gridlock in Vermont’s housing. Hopefully the coordinated efforts of Age Strong Vermont will be a path forward for a better future for us all. The people at Age Strong Vermont do want to hear from you and your input on these matters is requested. Age Strong Vermont hopes to release their new roadmap this fall (2023) and with implementation beginning the beginning of 2024. You can make your opinion known by emailing agestrongvt@vermont.gov or the author Ben@transitionsvt.com.

Ben Durant is a leading Senior Real Estate Specialist in the State of Vermont and has a passion for supporting and defending his clients through the process of downsizing, right-sizing, and relocating in Vermont. Ben lives with his wife, Amy, and three children in Williston, Vermont. He can be reached at Ben@TransitionsVT.com or by calling directly at 802-355-6688. Visit his website at TransitionsVT.com.

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