Your expertise in senior housing issues may be needed more than ever in the coming years.
Recent research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies outlines the immense challenges facing the growing over-65 population. The group is expected to struggle with rising mortgage debt, costly support services, and a shortage of accessible, affordable housing options.
Here are some facts from the report, Housing America's Older Adults 2023, that paint a daunting picture for seniors:
- In 2021, an all-time high of nearly 11.2 million older adults spent more than 30% of their income on housing.
- Fewer than 4% of U.S. homes were accessible and featured single-floor living, no-step entries, and wide hallways and doorways.
- Caregiving is costly and in short supply. For example, long-term care services average over $100 per day, and when those costs are added to housing costs, only 14% of single people aged 75 and over can afford daily visits from a paid caregiver. Just 13% can afford to move to an assisted living facility.
- Though accessibility modification programs exist, income limits and lack of awareness limit their impact.
- Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and cohousing may solve some challenges, but local zoning laws often discourage them. Also, the "Village" model, a neighbor-to-neighbor network offering services like transportation, tech support, home repairs, and social events, helps with aging in the community. However, more communities need to adopt the model.
- Climate change affects older adults, particularly those in spots vulnerable to significant weather-related damage like wildfires and hurricanes. Plus, insurers are pulling out or raising rates in such areas. Home upgrades like more efficient insulation, storm shutters, and fire-resistant roofs can lower risks. Still, older adults may need help—physical and financial—making improvements to adapt to climate-related dangers.
You're in an ideal position to help older adults navigate housing difficulties. Here are six ways:
- Educate older people in your community about available housing options and guide them to choices best suited to their physical and financial needs.
- Stay current on inventory that could fit seniors' needs.
- Advise aging homeowners on the modifications that will allow them to age in place and connect them with resources—contractors and volunteer groups—to make such upgrades.
- Advocate for aging-friendly zoning changes to allow for ADUs, for example. Take a look at this guide on ADUs from the American Planning Association or these publications about ADUs from AARP.
- Point community members to tools and resources to create a Village model, such as the Village Movement website and AARP’s Senior Planet article on the Village model.
- Provide information, incentives, and resources about budget-friendly upgrades that ease the effects of climate change. Learn more from the US Department of Energy’s Home Energy Rebates FAQs and the Electrify Everything in Your Home guide from Rewiring America.