After spending time in communities across Anderson County over the last several years, it seems appropriate to take a hard look at the underlying data to quantitatively define some of the problems that are most evident. This will show the comparative “age” of Anderson county as well as examine the ability of working-age adults in our county to earn a living wage. Seniors, in particular, are dependent on benefits that are far behind increases in the cost of living. Nearly half of the 65+ population in Homeland Park do not have enough money to make ends meet every month. The housing stock in Homeland Park is much lower in value compared to national averages and the homes are very old. Nonprofit housing organizations are trying to help, but the problem may be invisible or overshadowed by competing priorities.

This article is intended to draw attention to a handful of specific areas by providing discrete data and in-depth analysis. While brief in its presentation, the extent of the problems identified here deserves our attention and focus to improve the quality of life for our neighbors and address these issues. The objective nature of “by the numbers” is designed to move beyond an emotional plea for help and provide a methodology for looking at issues with data while not forgetting the people behind the numbers.

My hope is this will help our community to articulate the needs in their neighborhoods and provide a substantive basis for seeking programmatic assistance to address issues. I welcome the opportunity to help those who are interested in learning more, so ask questions, seek to understand, take a look at the details!

By the Numbers

Comparing Age

With a median age of 41 years – two years higher than the national median – Anderson county is “older” than the nation as a whole; Homeland Park’s median age is a year higher at 42. Pelzer is the “oldest” town in the county – residents there have a median age of 46! And while 15.6 percent of the U.S. population was age 65 or older in 2018, 17.7 percent of Anderson county residents were over the age of 65: Homeland Park had an even higher 22.8% senior population. With increasing life expectancies, one of the more dramatic growth trends will likely be the substantial growth of the oldest population (age 85 and over). Today, Anderson County’s seniors are more likely to be women, live alone, and have lower incomes than are seniors in the national population as a whole.1

Living Wages and Unemployment During Covid-19

Working-age adults in our county are finding it hard to earn a living wage in the Covid-19 economic environment. This forces an out-migration of working non-elderly residents, while our county’s communities contain larger shares of older residents. Unemployment rates as a secondary consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic are at generational highs, and over the last four years, from 2016 to 2020, a single adult’s expenses for housing, food, transportation, and healthcare already had increased 16.5%; it rose 21.5% for a 2-adult household.2

COLA for Social Security Benefits

For Homeland Park seniors, who are nearly a quarter of its population, those who are dependent on Social Security as most or all of their income, the national-level cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to Social Security benefits have been too little in the past ten years to keep up with local housing, food, transportation, and healthcare expenses. Social Security COLAs have averaged a 1.65 percent increase annually this past decade, with no increase at all to benefits in 2016. The increase that went into effect in January 2020 was 1.6 percent.3 In the same time period as the rise of household expenses, 2016 to 2020, Social Security COLA increases only increased by 7.8 percent. Many of our Homeland Park elders do not have the physical or financial resources to improve their housing conditions and maintain their quality of life.

Figure 1 – COLA vs Costs Increase for One and Two Adult Households


Regionally, Homeland Park is impacted by rural and small-town poverty rates which are the highest in the South – 19.3 percent of Southern residents live below the Federal poverty level.4 Homeland Park has one of the highest rates of poverty, based on the Federal poverty level, in the county at 27.5 percent.5 However, the Federal poverty level does not take into account regional cost that impacts a household’s ability to be self-sufficient. The 2020 South Carolina Self-Sufficiency Standard is a measure of income adequacy that is based on the costs of basic needs for working families: housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits. The Federal poverty measure, developed half a century ago, is now methodologically out of date and no longer accurately measures the ability to provide for oneself and one’s family—at best it measures “deprivation.” Throughout South Carolina, the Self-Sufficiency Standard for each county shows that incomes well above the Federal poverty thresholds are nevertheless far below what is necessary to meet families’ basic needs. Note that these budgets are “bare-bones,” with just enough allotted to meet basic needs, but no extras. For example, the Self-Sufficiency Standard’s food budget is only for groceries. It does not allow for any takeout or restaurant food, not even a pizza or an ice cream.6 It also does not include the increasing medication needs of seniors which have been calculated by the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging’s Elder Index for our county.7 Using these tailored and localized income requirements, we find that nearly half of the 65+ population in Homeland Park do not have enough money to make ends meet every month, as their annual incomes are below $25K.

Given the older population in Homeland Park, it is not a surprise to find 42.4% of households receive Social Security earnings – but this is much above that seen nationally, at 31%. Homeland Park households are also more likely to have income in the form of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), retirement earnings, and income from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) than for the nation. Anderson County residents as a whole as well as households in Homeland Park are more likely to have income from SNAP than nationally.8 Over 3000 senior households in our county are enrolled in SNAP, and they receive an average of $124 per month.9 There are another ~141 senior households in Homeland Park that are eligible for SNAP but are not enrolled.10 This is referred to as the “senior SNAP gap”.

There are many possible reasons for our county’s senior SNAP gap. Seniors may not know that they are eligible for SNAP, feel a stigma about receiving government benefits, or face mobility and transportation barriers to applying or re-certifying in person. Seniors might not know they should claim medical expenses as a deduction from income that would result in higher monthly SNAP benefit allotments. Often, seniors do not know about the excess medical deduction opportunity, or they cannot deal with the paperwork verification burdens.11

Home Ownership

Over three-quarters of Anderson county’s homeowners age 65 and over own their homes free and clear. It is important to note the equity they accumulate is less than that for homes elsewhere in the state or nation. For example, the median home value in Homeland Park is less than $70,000, compared to the national median home value of $217,500, and South Carolina’s median home value of $162,300. A common sight in Homeland Park is an aging small home or manufactured house, in substandard condition – often worth less than $50,000.

Figure 2 – Comparison of Homes Valued at Less Than $50,000



More than half (55.4 percent) of Homeland Park’s housing units are owner-occupied, compared to 64 percent for the nation. Although homeownership can confer many benefits on the individual and the community, Homeland Park residents (of all ages) tend to live in relatively low-value homes. Approximately 17.4 percent of Homeland Park homes are worth less than $50,000; only 4 percent of homes nationwide are worth so little. Nearly a half of Homeland Park homes are worth less than $100,000; only 17% of homes carry that low a value in South Carolina.12 Home-ownership of an exceptionally low-value house does not provide the equity to “cash out” to move into a senior-focused community, forcing many Anderson county seniors to age in place.

Figure 3 – Housing Stock Worth Less Than $100,000

As Homeland Park ages, more people will need homes that allow them to live safely and comfortably: for example, hallways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or show­ers with handrails and seats to safe­guard against falls. Whether the growing popula­tion of older Americans can live safely and comfortably in their homes touches on the health of older people and is also a ques­tion of steep economic costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 1 in 4 people aged 65 and over fall each year. Medicare and Medicaid pay the majority of these costs, with an average hospital bill for a fall-related injury totaling about $30,000. 13 CDC’s Injury Center created an initiative to screen patients for fall risk, assess modifiable risk factors, and intervene to reduce risk by using both effective clinical and community strategies.14 In doing so, we can help our county’s older adults age without injury.

Aging Housing Stock

Nationally, the median year houses were built is 1978; in Homeland Park, it is 1971. This is housing that’s 50 years old.15 Overall, Homeland Park has a considerable number of very old houses: 376 that are 70 years old and older. These older houses don’t often enough have aging-ready features as recommended by the CDC. Older adults may have difficulty climbing stairs, getting into the shower, or using kitchen counters. They may need sink handles or levers instead of knobs.

Figure 4 – Median Year for Houses Built in Anderson County

Addressing the Need

One consistent resource to address housing challenges has been local nonprofit housing organizations across the nation, and that is the case in our county as well. We find our local organizations such as Rebuild Upstate and Emmanuel’s Hammer are often the catalysts that transform public and private funding into safe and affordable homes, which helps us meet our underlying gap in safe housing options for Homeland Park’s older residents.

Emmanuel’s Hammer projects, for example, often install the CDC-recommended grab bars, railings, widened doorways, and better lighting in their renovations.16 There is, however, more need than capacity. Homeland Park will need to expand its range of housing options such as affordable senior-friendly rental housing, rehabilitation and repair programs, housing with services, and community intervention on modifying risky areas of housing. There is no mystery about what is driving the need for age-friendly planning: numbers. The number of Americans aged 65 and older has already doubled since 1980 and has grown more than 50 percent since 2000. Every day another 10,000 Americans celebrate their 65th birthday (it’s about 6 folks per day in Anderson county turning 65), and one of every five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030.17

Other Concerns

Overall, Homeland Park has a number of other concerning aspects within it. 30% of the population is housing burdened; that is, they spend more than 30% of their income on housing alone. There are 449 (out of 2630) households without a vehicle. Additionally, 566 households do not have internet available to them, and 466 have no computer of any kind.18 Homeland Park Primary, which had 447 students in school year 2019-2020, also had a 92.6% student poverty rate, or 414 students in poverty.19 Overall, there are at least 1,473 people in poverty in Homeland Park. And 633 people do not have a high school degree, which results in a significant reduction in earnings. The median earnings for those without a high school degree in Homeland Park is $14,202 – it is $10K more with a degree. The median household income for those in Homeland Park, inclusive of all levels of educational attainment, is $30,399.20

Homeland Park residents are almost as likely to be renters as they are homeowners: 44.6% of the total households, or 1173 of them, rent. They pay a median gross rent of $687 monthly. Comparing that to the median household income, this would be 27% of monthly income paid in rent. This median value does not fully capture the depth of the housing cost burden. A full 328 renter households pay more than 50% of their income in rent. Additionally, renters move often, with 61.6% having a new address at least every four years. Comparatively, only 8.2% of homeowners moved less than four years ago.21


Homeland Park is one example of how the economy affects individuals, especially seniors, in Anderson county. We are constantly amazed at the resiliency of those who call Anderson county home. Very few complain as they accept the hand dealt to them. We are also aware of many non-profits and hundreds of individuals that work diligently to address the needs presented in this article. Addressing needs that are often unseen in the community requires leadership that is willing to look beyond a single issue in the county. We are fortunate to have many in leadership positions that step into this space, but more work is required in Homeland Park and other communities in need in our county. Even more, we need a coordinated effort to focus on getting funding and programs in place to target specific problem areas. These programs can only be effective if we first recognize the extent of the needs then develop an appropriate strategy to address them.

For questions about this article or your neighborhood in Anderson County, please contact Zoë Hale, email:



  1. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (median age, age groups, age, and income) and geography. Accessed from
  2. Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging (2020) UMass Boston: Elder Index by county. Accessed from and Methodology
  3. Accessed from
  4. Taking Stock: Rural people, poverty and housing in the 21st century, Housing Assistance Council, December 2012
  5. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (poverty) and geography. Accessed from
  6. Center for Women’s Welfare University of Washington: Self Sufficiency Standard for South Carolina 2016 and 2020. Index by household type (number of adults and children) by county. Accessed from
  7. Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging (2020) UMass Boston: Elder Index by county. Accessed from and Methodology
  8. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (income and earnings) and geography. Accessed from
  9. Statistical Supplement to Household Food Insecurity in the United States in 2019, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory, Anita Singh. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2020.
  10. An Evaluation Report: Senior Food-Assistance, related programming, and seniors’ experiences across the Feeding America Network, Edward A. Frongillo and Andrea M. Warren Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior USC Columbia.
  11. Poverty, Hunger, Health and the Federal Nutrition Programs: A Profile of the Southern Region July 2020 and blog posts such as (Food Research and Action Center 2021.
  12. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (housing) and geography. Accessed from
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Home and Recreational Safety, Cost of Older Adult Falls. Accessed from
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Older Adult Fall Prevention. Accessed from
  15. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (housing) and geography. Accessed from
  16. Emmanuel’s Hammer Project page. Accessed from:
  17. American Planning Association, Age-Friendly Rural Planning, 2020. Accessed from:
  18. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (housing) and geography. Accessed from
  19. SC Department of Education,, accessed December 2020, Active Student Headcounts, by School, Anderson County.
  20. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (Income and Poverty) and geography. Accessed from
  21. American Community Survey data, 2018, Census Bureau, by topic (Housing) and geography. Accessed from