Construction started this month on Heritage Village at Galloway Township, an affordable residential development for active seniors ages 55 and older. When the project is completed, it will join several other senior housing developments in the township, such as Four Seasons at Historic Smithville, Seashore Gardens Living Center and Countryside Meadows.
It took years of planning, multilayered negotiations, relationship-building, paperwork and financial sourcing to bring Heritage Village to Galloway, the largest municipality in the state geographically and the third-largest in Atlantic County by population.
As the population of America continues to age, more towns in South Jersey should follow Galloway’s lead in making it easier for residents to stay in the area, rather than move away. There are economic and cultural benefits to keeping or attracting seniors to our communities.
And there are more seniors than ever, as the Baby Boomers hit retirement age in huge numbers. The population of U.S. residents ages 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2060, according to U.S. Census data — from nearly 50 million people to more than 100 million.
More than 25 percent of Cape May County residents are 65 years old or more, according to U.S. Census population estimates from 2017. In Atlantic County, the percentage is more than 17.
“Businesses pop up to address the market demands,” Galloway Mayor Anthony J. Coppola Jr. told The Press in a story about the housing project. “It’s something we consider. It’s not by accident that we’ve addressed these needs. It’s happened according to plan.”
In addition to housing, towns should think about developing what the World Health Organization calls “age-friendly environments.”
“Creating barrier-free and affordable housing, accessible public spaces, and transportation enable people to stay independent and participate in community life,” according to the WHO. “An age-friendly environment reduces the risk of falls and prevents the neglect and abuse of vulnerable older people by increasing the safety of the natural and built environments and the security and protection of older people in the community.”
The benefits to communities are many, including that older people engage in paid or volunteering work, transmit experience and knowledge, help their families with caretaking responsibilities, and add to the tax coffers.
Making our towns and cities more appealing to seniors is a win for all residents. What is good for older people — lots of walkable green spaces, reliable public transportation, safe and affordable housing — is also good for everyone else.