Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing took a close look at housing for older adults in its recent study, Housing America's Older Adults—Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population. One conclusion is that housing is the linchpin of well-being for older Americans. “Affordable, accessible, and well-located housing is central to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults (defined here as 50 and over),” according the report.
For older adults, housing has an impact on everything from their financial security and personal safety, to their ability to remain independent and avoid heading to institutional settings prematurely. You likely knew all that already. But the study also finds that the country is ill prepared to meet the housing needs of a demographic group that is set for explosive growth.
Here’s what that growth will look like:
By 2030, the population aged 50 or over will increase to 132 million, with most of that growth concentrated among those aged 65 and over. The retirement of the leading edge of the baby boom is projected to nearly double the number of adults aged 65 to 74 from 21.7 million in 2010 to 38.6 million in 2030.
What’s missing to allow people to age in place happily and successfully? Some entail policy decisions that are beyond any one individual’s control and include providing greater funding for housing assistance programs, making cities more age friendly, and putting programs and services in place that increase overall wellness.
Though the study’s conclusions are pretty alarming, you can do some things to ease your own housing-related challenges associated with aging.
Home Accessibility: Even if you have no disabilities right now, plan for a time when you’ll be frail. If you’re moving, put accessibility and universal design features on your priority list. And if you’re planning to stay where you are, start incorporating aging-in-place features now. You can modify bathrooms to house walk-in showers, utilize existing space in a large closet for main floor laundry or even consider an addition to add a main floor master suite! This both increases your home’s value and extends your independence in the home.
Housing Costs: Closely examine your finances and consider downsizing to reduce your housing costs, especially if paying the mortgage or rent is already a stretch. The study found that high housing costs currently force a third of adults 50 and over – including 37 percent of those 80 and over – to pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes. Some seniors cut back on food and health care to afford their housing. And among those aged 50 to 64, some cut back on retirement savings to pay for their housing. A possible solution may be to up-size your home and combine households with family members. The household can then share expenses and chores.
Long-Term Care: Factor in the sky-high costs of in-home and nursing care, and if you’re younger, consider a long-term care policy. According to the report, in-home care for older people is pricey, and the median monthly cost for 30 hours of weekly service is between $2,500 and $2,600.
As you make your housing plans, consider consulting with a Senior Real Estate Specialist to help you with exploring options. Your Senior Real Estate Specialist can show you homes suitable for downsizing, up sizing and condo living. He or she will also discuss financial options using the equity in your existing home.