Wealth, Cost Burdens, and Safety in Older Americans' Housing

Wealth, Cost Burdens, and Safety in Older Americans' Housing
Gary V. Engelhardt, Michael D. Eriksen, Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley
Publication Date:
September 2013
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A Profile of Housing and Health Among Older Americans details the housing, functional status and health status of the 55+ population in the United States. The study, conducted by a trio of academic researchers with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, uses Health and Retirement Study data from approximately 25,000 interviews of older Americans performed in 2010. This report gives a window into the changing health and housing status of older Americans ten years after the 2002 seminal report to Congress from The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century.

Major findings:

  • The vast majority (80 percent) of older American households in 2010 were homeowners.
  • Housing continues to be the dominant asset for older Americans; 50% of the average portfolio is composed of housing wealth.
  • Forty-four percent of older renters spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent, suggesting that housing affordability is an issue for older Americans.
  • Older renters have almost twice as many limitations on their ability to conduct daily activities compared to older homeowners.
  • The likelihood that an individual falls in their home rises steeply as housing quality declines; more than a third of older people have fallen in the past two years, a third of which led to serious injuries.
  • Almost a third of older Americans have residences with special safety features, while another 13% modified their home at an average expensive of more than two thousand dollars.