Once again, senior issues played a key role in a local election campaign. Will the issue continue to hold sway now that the voting has ended?
All three candidates standing in the recent Royal Palm Beach election favored the idea of building a senior living facility at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park. It is an idea that has been on the drawing board for several years. This time, the winner of the election, incumbent Vice Mayor Dave Swift, has named it his “top priority.”
Meanwhile, senior activists have been lobbying for a similar facility in Wellington for more than a decade. Just this week, a Wellington Village Council discussion gave new emphasis to the idea, but no conclusion — just an agreement to keep talking about it.
Senior housing issues are not an easy nut to crack. There are so many types of facilities that fall under the general umbrella, they’re too expensive for most local governments to build and maintain alone, and there is a belief among some that it is an idea best left to the free market, not the government. So, if the market has determined that seniors will need to move elsewhere, so be it?
Many local seniors have expressed an interest in survey after survey of downsizing from their large suburban homes without having to leave the community they helped build. The key to the entire argument is the word “affordable.” There are several skilled nursing facilities and high-end active adult communities in the western communities. The goal of senior activists in Wellington and Royal Palm Beach is to get an option for those seniors who don’t need the former and can’t afford the latter. Several of these projects have been approved, just to be dropped as unfeasible, and a few even remain on the books, unbuilt.
Hence the emphasis on getting government intervention on the issue. With a sizable portion of the local population in need of such a facility, it’s not a matter of need, but rather one of finances and political will. It’s time for both Wellington and Royal Palm Beach to get a move on the idea. If there is not the political will for each community to do it alone, then perhaps a joint venture might make sense. However, more meetings without conclusive decisions just gets us closer to the next election — when all the candidates will insist that senior issues are near and dear to their hearts.