Helen Long was a philanthropist and longtime parishioner of St. Luke’s Memorial, Tacoma whose generosity supported many charitable organizations, including local hospitals and Annie Wright School. In 1975, Helen’s trust provided a bequest for the Diocese of Olympia’s Episcopal Fund for the Aged and was used to help the diocese establish and fund what became Episcopal Retirement Communities (ERC). In the ‘90s, ERC set up and began operating two residences, helping to meet the growing need for affordable senior housing.
Across the country, the general population is ageing. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, nearly 10,000 people are retiring each day, four million every year, creating a need for senior housing that is destined to grow. Of those over 62, roughly 30% are postponing retirement – 60% of those individuals retire after 65 and 26% retire after 70. The average American retires at age 63, and their retirement typically lasts 18 years. In order for a retiree to draw $5,000 per month for 30 years of retirement, an individual needs to have over one million dollars in savings. The average 50-year-old has saved just under $43,000 and 55 to 64-year-olds have an average 401(k) balance of just under $178,000. 20% of Americans tap into their 401(k) assets early, either through a loan or withdrawal, and 36% of American adults over 65 are completely dependent on Social Security. 63% are dependent on Social Security, relatives, friends, or charity at age 65.
This segment of our society faces immense housing affordability challenges. At $5,000 to $6,000 a month for independent living in for-profit facilities, it is not hard to imagine the potential concerns of seniors without extended family support.
ERC currently operates two communities. St. Andrew’s Place is an assisted living facility in Port Angeles and Canterbury Manor is an independent living facility in Bremerton. What they have in common is high quality and affordability, serving seniors of limited means. For example, St. Andrew’s Place is the only Clallam County assisted living facility that accepts seniors on Medicaid upon admittance. No one has ever been asked to move out of either for lack of funds.
ERC hopes to expand the reach of their mission by building additional communities as opportunities present themselves. Another building is on the drawing board in Tacoma, an initiative brought to ERC by All Saints, Tacoma. The proposed building would provide more than 50 new affordable senior apartments on unused church land and new facilities the congregations could access as well.
Long-term, stable management is an asset, but the challenge is to continue to serve a low-income population’s housing needs cost-effectively in a world where real estate prices and other costs are rising. ERC’s major capitalization started and ended with Helen Long, so the organization has begun new fundraising efforts in order to grow and effectively meet the needs of a growing elderly population.
To find out more about Episcopal Retirement Communities, please follow the link below.