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President's Corner

A Challenge in Housing: The Time Is Now

Harvard report paints a sobering picture but gives a clear call to action

Tuesday, September 2, was a ground-breaking day. On that day, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released its latest report, “Housing America’s Older Adults: Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population,” at a live event in downtown DC. With support from The Hartford, AARP Foundation commissioned and funded the study, which offers a remarkably comprehensive and clear-eyed look at the current and future housing challenges facing America’s rapidly growing population of adults over 50.

Learn how AARP Foundation is improving access to safe and affordable housing

In my opening remarks at the event (which you can view in its entirety here), I noted that we at the Foundation consider our four focus areas of hunger, income, isolation and housing to be inextricably tied together. What is particularly gratifying about the Harvard report is that such links are central to its own focus. The study doesn’t look at housing on its own, but views it in relation to all the other challenges facing the older population in the years and decades ahead.

In many ways, housing problems are at the heart of those challenges. As the report puts it, housing is a linchpin for overall well-being, and that word was chosen advisedly. “Linchpin” is defined as a person or thing that holds something together, the most important part of a complex situation or system. Housing, in particular for older adults, certainly fits that definition.

AARP Foundation commissioned this report because the scopes of these problems are immense and the degree of awareness lagging. It’s clear from its findings that all of us need to come together with swift and concerted action if we are to avert a genuine crisis.

That action has to come at many levels. In our Housing Solutions Center, for example, action takes place at the individual level as counselors work one-on-one with clients such as the 92-year-old widower who called recently because he was at risk of losing his home to foreclosure. The report also highlights the need for each of us to take individual responsibility for planning for our future housing needs and the needs of our loved ones. But action must also come at the community, state and national level. And it involves us all, regardless of age or income. You don’t have to be poor or older to care about aging in place or living in a community that meets the needs of people of all ages.

Related Quiz: What makes a community livable?

The issues of affordability, accessibility within the home, transportation, caregiving and long-term care, isolation and other topics treated in this report touch all of us – and the people we love.

Next Page: Housing's effect on social isolation »

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legal cases

Find the most recent cases in which AFL has advocated in courts nationwide for the rights of older persons, and filed AARP’s amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs that help courts decide precedent-setting cases.

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