LONDONDERRY | Nancy Irwin, 73, says she can't sleep nights, pondering a move to senior housing and parting with possessions like the corner cabinet her husband built.

Her friend, Flo Silva, 81, tells Irwin she can bring the cabinet with her, along with the quilts, paintings and other sentimental items that fill the neat yellow mobile home where she has lived for the past 26 years.

It won't be easy for the two widows to leave -- Silva has a trailer on a nearby street. It won't be easy to forgo the independence the residences afford them. They come and go as they please and have no neighbors above or below. Still, the alternative to leaving, staying in homes they struggle to maintain and pay for, is even more unsettling.

Irwin and Silva are two of the many Londonderry seniors who have been advocating for the construction of affordable senior housing in town in recent years. After years of discussion, a plan is finally in the works to build a new 120-unit affordable elderly housing complex on Stonehenge Road.

George Dickson, the project's finance director, estimated that an applicant who is single could earn no more than $39,000 to be eligible, while a couple could earn no more than $44,000. Those eligible would pay a portion of the $864-per-month rent for a one-bedroom apartment or $1,038 rent for a two-bedroom apartment; the remainder would be subsidized.

While Irwin and Silva and an estimated 40 to 60 other seniors in Londonderry are interested in getting on the list for the project, developer Joe DeCarolis has yet to bring the project to town planners for site review.

Sara Landry, Londonderry's senior affairs coordinator, said local demand for such housing is strong. She has received inquiries going back to 2003 from seniors who have lived in town all or most of their lives and don't want to be forced to leave.

Some 13 percent of the population in town is 55 and older. And the 85-and-older group is the fastest growing segment of the population.

"Londonderry is a wonderful community except for the (lack of) affordable housing," she said. "We are working on that." There's lots of elderly housing units in town, but they are in the $300,000 range and not affordable for most low- and moderate-income seniors, she says.

To find affordable housing, some seniors might otherwise be forced to leave the state, and some are reluctant to move from New Hampshire. Affordable housing in Londonderry would give them options.

"It opens doors for them to live a better life," Landry said.

If Irwin and Silva get into the Stonehenge Road development, it would cost them about the same each month as what they are now paying, but they wouldn't have to shovel snow, pay for upkeep or heating costs.

They tell each other that they could maintain their lifestyles of volunteering, senior center activities and handicrafts.

"I couldn't get along without doing my (handicrafts)," says Irwin, an artist fond of landscapes with homes. She also quilts, crochets and sews.

Silva also sews and crochets, in addition to volunteering at Parkland Medical Center.

They agree that they will still be able to do those things if they move to their new residence.

"It will bring peace of mind for me," Silva says.



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