NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An effort that helped find homes for a group of senior citizens whose community got sold 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,” said Danielle Cotton. Her maternal grandmother was one of the residents living at North Park Village Senior Community in Madison when they were told they had 60 days to find new homes. “They had to relocate from their senior living community that many had been at for several years, five to 10 plus years. And, you know, as a senior, it was very difficult to get this news to have to relocate and uproot their lives in less than 60 days.”
North Park Village had been housing low-income seniors for over 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 only required to give a 30-day notice, residents said at the time that they were heartbroken and having a hard time finding 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.
“In trying to find her [grandmother] new placement, we just became advocates for that entire community,” Cotton said.
She explained that the experience highlighted the hurdles seniors were facing.
“They are the pillars of our community. They are the cornerstone, they’re the foundation. And if we forget about the foundation and pillars as we build, the building is surely going to collapse,” said Cotton’s mother, Karen Holder. “They’ve started the growth of Nashville, honestly, we have we’ve stood on their shoulders. So to discard them and forget about them is just a travesty. And I don’t think Nashville wants to be a part of that.”
Senior citizens tend to live on a fixed income which creates barriers to finding housing. They found many communities had income restrictions and wait lists that were more than three years. It was also hard to find independent senior living communities that were affordable.
“Many of our seniors, they’re not ready for assisted living,” Holder said. “Like my mother, for instance, she was not ready for a senior tower or assisted living. She’s still very vibrant, still very independent. But she needs accessibility for mobility restrictions, things like that.”
All the residents from North Park Village have since been placed in new homes. Cotton and Holder are now creating an organization called AWAKE Nashville, with AWAKE being an acronym for Advocating for Wellness, Accessibility, and Knowledge of injustice facing the Elderly.
They held a community fellowship event last weekend to reunite the former North Park residents as part of their goal to enhance the well-being of senior communities in Nashville through fellowship, fun, and social engagement.
“It was very nice to see everyone just engaging together, it was nice to see all the residents back together with their community in Madison,” Cotton said. “Just to see the youth engaging with the seniors, it was such a beautiful sight to see.”
Cotton and Holder said AWAKE Nashville is partnering with Nashville-based real estate development, construction, and management company Legacy South to help make affordable housing more accessible to senior residents of Davidson County. Their first initiative is to create a funding program to incentivize developers to build more independent and affordable living villas for lower-income senior citizens.
“We didn’t set out to start an organization, but we saw a great need,” Cotton said. “We were just excited to launch your organization to become advocates for this community, especially surrounding affordable housing.”
The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability’s most recent Plan on Aging found that between 2021 and 2031, the number of older Tennesseans age 60+ is projected to grow from 1.66 million to 1.93 million.