Almost all discussions about Newton’s future mention the growing number of seniors who live here. Many of us have owned our single-family homes for decades. Their value has climbed precipitously, in my case by a factor of ten. At this point in our lives, several issues arise. How much longer can we bear the responsibility of maintaining our property? Houses naturally decay and need repair, usually an expensive proposition. When it snows, someone has to clear the driveway and sidewalk. What about all those empty rooms now that the children live on their own? And what of the costs of electricity and heat? Finally, if we retirees want to surrender our haciendas but also to remain in the Garden City, can we find condos or rentals to our satisfaction?
My wife, who still works four days a week, and I are committed to remain in our home. Thanks to prudent improvements, our home’s fixed expenses are minimal. Our colonial is well-insulated and the furnace efficient. We have twenty-eight solar panels on our roof and haven’t paid an electrical bill in years. Fortunately, we are both in good health, and with the aid of a snow blower, we can handle occasional snow storms without much difficulty. Having always lived modestly and saved more than we spent, we managed to pay off our mortgage. Between my state pension and my wife’s salary, we are secure, at least for now. Things have surely broken our way.
Still, we know of other retirees who long to downsize for a rental or condo in the vicinity but cannot find a good match. Some of our friends, religiously observant, want to live within walking distance of their temple. Others hope to use the profit from the sale of their homes not only to find a more modest Newton home but also to help fund their Golden Years. These two goals, however, seem difficult to reconcile at present. The units presently on the market are rare or extremely expensive, the rent or mortgage payments larger than that of their homes- and the space is constricted. The mega-developments on the horizon offer mostly high-end units, and those deemed “affordable” are just too small for a couple hoping to host their grandchildren on weekends and school vacations.
In the grand scheme of things, why should anyone care about problems facing relatively affluent senior citizens? Elsewhere, some citizens are homeless, and others live in neighborhoods with few amenities and many problems. But Newton’s senior citizens are often the backbone of the community: present and former leaders of PTAs, activists in community groups, former city employees, and even former office-holders in local government. We love Newton and want to remain part of its fabric. What might the city do to help more of us stay?