Study: U.S. Unprepared to Meet Housing Needs of Aging Population
The United States is not prepared to meet the housing needs of its aging population, says a new study from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation.
“Affordable, accessible, and well-located housing is central to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults (defined here as 50 and older),” reads the report. “…But the existing housing stock is unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordability, accessibility, social connectivity, and supportive services.”
The report highlights that by 2040, aging baby boomers will push up the population aged 80 and over to 28 million, more than three times the number in 2000. The Health and Human Services Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of people who reach age 65 ultimately will need some form of long-term care.
Some of the issues facing older Americans include high housing costs forcing millions of low-income older adults to sacrifice spending on other necessities including food; most housing lacks basic accessibility features; transportation and pedestrian infrastructure is generally ill-suited to those who do not or cannot drive; and disconnects between housing programs the health care system put many adults with long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization.
“The public policy challenges are immense,” says the report, adding that addressing these deficiencies is vital to a national standard of living. “The private and nonprofit sectors also have critical roles to play in developing new housing and care options that support aging in the community.”
Housing America’s Older Adults – Meeting the Needs of An Aging PopulationLink Icon also addresses the diversity among the United States’ growing older population thanks to the wave of young immigrants who arrived in the United States and recent decades and are now reaching age 50. “With this growing diversity will come significant shifts in housing demand, reflecting the different housing situations and financial circumstances of minorities.”
Homeownership rates also vary widely among ethnicities. Among adults 50 and over, 82 percent of whites own homes, 58 percent of blacks, 62 percent of Hispanics and 70 percent of Asians. There are also regional differences among housing styles and accessibilities. For example, the report notes, in the Northeast many homes are built on multiple levels and do not include a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor while nearly 84 percent of homes in the South provide single-floor living.
The report concludes by saying that various nonprofit and public initiatives are demonstrating the benefits of linking housing with long-term care. The private sector is also developing new housing options, technologies and services in recognition of the potential market for assisting older adults with aging in the community. “A broader conversation, however, is essential to help spread these initiatives so that more older adults can benefit from them,” the report says.