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Addressing Senior Housing Issues

Henry Cisneros and Laura Carstensen discuss challenges, solutions

People age 50 and older are a fast-growing segment of the U.S. population, thanks to the huge generation of boomers. As they get older, most boomers will want to stay in their homes, or "age in place." Their community is where they've built their lives, made friends and raised families.

See also: A new model for affordable housing takes shape

Most homes and communities, however, were not designed to meet the needs of people who increasingly need housing that is structurally and mechanically safe and accessible. They also need safe communities, adequate transportation options and access to grocery stores, doctors and community activities.

AARP Foundation is engaging housing experts and industry practitioners in conversation, to raise awareness of housing issues faced by the 50-plus population and to generate ideas for research and policies that will create high-impact solutions. We want to make all of our communities affordable and welcoming for people regardless of age.

In this set of videos, Henry Cisneros (former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development) and Laura Carstensen, Ph.D. (director of the Stanford Center on Longevity), discuss the challenges society faces in providing adequate housing for an aging population. Both were part of a team that collaborated on a new book, Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America, that assesses the current state of housing and presents new possibilities that realistically address the interrelated issues of housing, communities, services and financial concerns.

Also of interest: Keeping a housing promise to seniors in Va. »

Programs & Services

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Housing Solutions Center

This program offers free HUD-certified counseling and assistance to 50-plus homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure. Go

AARP Tax Aide

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide

This program offers free assistance with tax-return preparation. Go

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AARP Benefits QuickLink

See if you qualify for public assistance and you can save money on health care, medication, food, utilities, and more! Go

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AARP Drive to End Hunger

Feeding people today, preventing hunger in the future. Join the fight to end hunger. Do

Older People And

Whether people 50+ own or rent, the repercussions from the recession are severe - abandoned neighborhoods, rent increases and a decrease in affordable, subsidized housing. Millions of homeowners can neither sell their homes nor receive approval to refinance their mortgages at today’s much lower interest rates. 



  • 19 million adults 50+ live in unaffordable or unsafe housing
  • Nearly 25% of household mortgages are underwater - meaning the mortgage is larger than the current value of the house.
  • Foreclosures have been at record levels.

Housing in the

Housing Is Biggest Expense for Seniors

(Senior Housing News, April 1) - A Social Security Administration report indicates that housing expenses lead all others among those 50+, and that both the poorest and those at the lower end of the age spectrum are hit the hardest. Read

Older Adults Turn to Co-Housing to Save Money

(WCBS-TV, March 26) - Across the country, more than 100 developments feature small homes clustered around communal buildings, in some cases including communal kitchens; establishing ground rules for shared space is key. Read

Nearly Half of Older Workers Will Use Home Equity for Retirement

(NYT, Feb. 5) - A recent survey found, surprisingly, that 47 percent of workers between 50 and 70 plan to rely on the equity in their homes to finance their retirement despite the widespread loss in home values. They may have no other choice. Read