Every year, safe, affordable housing options for older adults become more crucial. In recognition of his esteemed career serving the housing needs of the world’s aging population, USC Davis School of Gerontology Professor Jon Pynoos was honored with the Janet L. Witkin Humanitarian Award from Affordable Living for the Aging (ALA).
“Dr. Pynoos is a powerful advocate for helping others understand that how we design housing — with considerations for the built environment and services —can enhance the vitality of individuals at any age,” said Rachel Caraviello MS ’08, ALA’s vice president of programs and services. “He has spent his career advising leaders like Janet and educating decision-makers, nationally, about the need for more accessible, affordable housing so our communities are prepared to support an aging population.”
“I am very honored to receive ALA’s award named for Janet Witkin, whom I first met in 1980 when I was just starting at USC,” Pynoos said. “Despite the challenges of developing housing for low-income seniors, Janet pioneered the concepts of shared housing and house-matching. She was innovative, tenacious and big-hearted.”
Witkin founded ALA in 1978 after seeing the limited housing options available to her ailing grandfather. Over the course of her career, she created the first cooperative living house for seniors in Los Angeles, a roommate-matching program and five cooperative residences for low-income seniors. Though she died in 2009, her work lives on in the mission of ALA, which has helped more than 30,000 seniors in their search for safe, stable housing.
“I am inspired by those who are following in Janet’s footsteps to create innovative programs and housing opportunities, to impact the lives of Los Angeles’ seniors and to prove that if there is a will, there is a way,” Pynoos said. “Shared and supportive housing is life-enriching at a time when older people’s incomes, social networks and supports are often shrinking. Today, such housing options are particularly important.”
In his speech, Pynoos discussed his urban planning, fall prevention and aging research, describing how older adults benefit from the increased companionship, engagement and support found in shared living arrangements like the ones ALA builds and how absolutely necessary it is to take a fresh look at housing needs through an aging lens.
“Winston Churchill once said, ‘We shape our houses and later they shape us,’ ” Pynoos said. “ALA has proved Churchill wrong. Keep up the good work.”