A Health Foundation That’s Supporting the Age-Friendly Movement in New England

 Photo: DGLimages/shutterstock

 Photo: DGLimages/shutterstock

Affordable housing is a hot topic among funders in many parts of the country,  with a big focus on low-income families and minority populations. One interesting thread in this grantmaking trend is the greater role of health foundations as affordable housing funders—propelled by a growing body of evidence that housing can have a major impact on public health. 

The Tufts Health Plan Foundation (THPF) is one of these types of funders that has really stepped up to the plate for affordable housing in Boston. But it is focusing on a niche demographic that's often overlooked in the shuffle: the elderly.

This summer, THPF awarded $1.7 million in grants to support age-friendly communities, with 21 new grants supporting more than 200 community organizations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. THPF’s push on this front is especially good news for nonprofits in Boston that are keyed into major demographic shifts that are already happening in the city. 

Enterprise Community Partners, a grantee that recently received $50,000 from THPF, says that there will be a 53 percent increase in senior households in the Boston area between the years 2010 and 2030. There are already around 23,000 seniors in this region, and about 73 percent of them are low-income. The needs for senior affordable housing Boston are growing by the year, and THPF is at the forefront of this funding movement.  

One way that THPF has expanded its senior housing reach is by funding groups like Enterprise Community Partners that are fostering collaboration between local affordable housing developers and owners. Developers are starting to focus more specifically on the housing needs of the elderly, so now is a key time to share information about best practices and draw closer connections between sustainable housing and good health.  

Nora Moreno Cargie, president of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the vice president of corporate citizenship for Tufts Health Plan, said

Our investments focus on improving community livability and addressing inequities to help older adults live healthier, fulfilling lives. Every community has different needs and opportunities. Some communities are just starting; others have been engaged in this work and are ready to take their initiatives to the next level. We want to honor communities where they are.

In total, THPF has given out over $2.6 million this year for community investments, and there’s been a lot of momentum around the age-friendly movement. In addition to affordable housing for seniors, this funder is also interested in training healthcare professionals and first responders to understand senior needs, keeping seniors informed about healthcare choices, helping seniors manage chronic diseases, and improving the mental health of seniors. Another recent Boston grantee is the Trustees of Boston University, which received a two-year $138,889 grant to address the mental and behavioral needs of older adults through a training partnership and awareness campaign. Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts Foundation received a one-year $104,105 grant to leverage partnerships, collaborate, engage, and coordinate initiatives that are part of the Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan.

THPF typically releases news about when it's accepting letters of intent for age-friendly initiatives and due dates on its website. You can learn more about the foundation’s focus areas for older adults here.