U.S. Unprepared to Meet the Housing Needs of its Aging Population

U.S. Unprepared to Meet the Housing Needs of its Aging Population
Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
Publication Date:
September 2014
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According to Housing America’s Older Adults—Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population, the number of adults in the U.S. aged 50 and over is expected to grow by 70 percent from 2000 to 2030, to 132 million (see interactive map). The report makes clear that the U.S. housing supply is currently not adequate to meet these older adults’ diverse and growing needs.

Major findings:

  • One in three adults age 50 and over pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, forcing them to cut back on food and health care. For those not yet retired, high housing costs also affect retirement savings.
  • Just one percent of housing units in the US have all five universal design features that can help residents age safely in their homes. These features include no-step entries, accessible switches and outlets, single-floor living, extra-wide doorways and halls, and lever-style door and faucet handles.
  • A majority of older adults live in areas that make them dependent upon automobiles for daily activities such as shopping, visiting doctors, or seeing family and friends. This puts their future independence and ability to stay socially connected at risk.
  • Disconnects between housing programs and the health care system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization.
  • The younger baby boomers maybe unable to afford housing or appropriate care in their later years due to lower incomes, wealth, homeownership rates, and more debt than prior generations.
  • An estimated 70 percent of older Americans reaching the age of 65 will eventually need some type of long-term care, with 37 percent having either short-term or long-term stays in an institutional facility.
  • Homeownership status greatly impacts the ability of older adults to afford long term care, with owners typically able to afford up to six to nine years depending on the type of care, while renters can only afford two months of this care.