You are a 30-something professional working hard at your downtown office. You reside and are raising a family in the San Fernando Valley because that is where you can afford to live and raise your new family. You grew up in Santa Monica but now it is way out of your price range. You went to Grant Elementary, JAMS, Samohi, and then attended UCLA, all while living in your mom and dad’s Santa Monica home.

Your parents are both aging as they are both well into their seventies. Both mom and dad are on Social Security and Medicare and they have a modest pension. They’re still in the Sunset Park home where you grew up. After college you looked all over town and could not find a place to rent or buy in your hometown. It was all out of your range as your career was just getting started. So, off you went to other parts of the county. You commute to your downtown office job.

It is a business day and you get a phone call. It is from your mom, and your dad had a slip and fall. Mom would have called earlier but everything happened too fast. He fell in the bathroom. It was painful and sudden. Your dad will be home soon and will be laid up for a while. The doctor will see him in a few days and there is a possibility that he will need his hip replaced.

Thus begins a new stage in life for you, mom and dad, family friends and relatives. You remember what your grand folks went through as they aged. Granddad passed ten years ago and now your grandmother lives in an assisted living center up in the northern part of the Central Valley. You and your parents visit when you all can. But, there might be fewer visits now — you are raising a family, there is work pressure and now there could be complications due to dad’s fall.

AARP reports that 43.5 million adult caregivers care for someone 50years of age and older and 14.9 million care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Care giving services are valued at well over $450 billion a year. More women than men are caregivers — an estimated 66 percent of caregivers are women. One third take care of two or more people.

We have all heard about adult children raised in Santa Monica not being able to find a place to live at the point in life when they are out on their own. They went to SAMO, Santa Monica College and off to a four year school. As they grew up, they went to the beach, hung around the Promenade, played little league or soccer at a local field.

And, we hear all of the time about the lack of housing for seniors. As people age, as a spouse dies, as mobility becomes a bit more of a challenge, seniors find themselves looking and looking and looking for an affordable and comfortable place to live near family, friends and the day-to-day necessities.

The City of Santa Monica has made strong commitments to its aging residents in all kinds of ways. The local services offered by nonprofit and governmental groups for aging residents are a model for other communities to emulate. And, the community is proud of that tradition.

But, by not building housing, we make it harder and harder for people to be together at some very important moments in their lives. Adult children want to be in their hometown and their parents and grandparents want them near.

Think of it this way. Some groups in Santa Monica want locations where there might have been four or five story apartment buildings full of renters that are young, old and all in between, to be prohibited.

They want to restrict our housing options so that only one or two story boutiques can be built. These same groups have a track record of opposing measures to fund more affordable housing and they have openly opposed reasonable and much-needed new housing opportunities.

When an older loved one has a problem that a relative living close by could have helped with, having the housing options to make that possible is a tremendous boon to middle-class people who can’t afford full-time professional caregiver.

Our nation has changed since the ravages of the Great Depression. We live longer and we thrive longer. This speaks to the dramatic success of American’s social insurance systems. We live now with the certainty that Social Security is solvent and just fine with a nice sized surplus that takes us well into the future. For Medicare, solvency has greatly improved even with additional benefits created via the Affordable Care Act. And, again, due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid works for more people and, over all; there are fewer and fewer uninsured people.

Thanks to these strides in progressive policy, the quality and length of our lives have been increased, but that also means we need more options for living out our twilight years in dignity.

No one expects that the City of Santa Monica is the place where the national challenge of long-term care and caregiving will be solved. But, as local Santa Monica leaders are considering a planning framework that gives us less housing, they ought to ask the following questions:

What happens when mom or dad needs a family member nearby? Where can you afford to live when the phone rings?

Ernie Powell is a local activist on senior issues.

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