AARP Foundation sponsored a just-released report by The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University called “Housing America’s Older Adults — Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population.” The report highlights the many challenges the nation faces in providing affordable and adequate housing to an aging demographic whose numbers are increasing year by year. Here are a few key findings from the report:
- Older people are skimping on other necessities in order to keep themselves housed. Food, transportation, medical care … low-income older adults are making gut-wrenching tradeoffs every day as they struggle to make rent and mortgage payments. In fact, older adults with the highest housing-cost burdens spend 40 percent less on food than their counterparts in more affordable housing.
- A large portion of America’s available housing is not adequate for the needs of older adults. As people age, their physical needs change. Climbing stairs can become difficult. Doorknobs and light switches become harder to grasp. Lighting may no longer be sufficient for weakened eyes. Unfortunately, housing does not automatically adjust to fit the needs of its inhabitants. As the older demographic continues to grow, more and more people will find themselves in housing that no longer fits their requirements for safe, independent living.
- America is a lonely, difficult place to live if you can’t drive. Ask any teenager: Getting to and from anywhere without a car can be a challenge. Walkways, bike lanes, buses, subways and other public transportation are often not convenient substitutes for a car. Older adults who lose the ability to drive are often left at home isolated, with their personal and physical needs unmet, because of too few transportation options – or none at all.
- Lack of integration between housing and healthcare increases costs and puts the independence of older people at risk. Home- and community-based care allows older adults with healthcare needs to avoid expensive stays in long-term facilities and readmissions into hospitals. Unfortunately, America’s healthcare infrastructure does not currently provide in-home and community options to many of the most vulnerable older adults.
- There is still time to help a large number of aging people!!! Even though many 50+ currently live in unaffordable or inadequate housing, this doesn’t always have to be the case. The vast majority of boomers have not yet reached the age where their housing has become a serious problem. With education, planning and resources, older adults and those who support them have the ability to change course and improve options available to people as they age.