Housing Changes Needed as Boomers Seek Quality of Life
America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth. According to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation, the number of adults in the U.S. aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 133 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000. It is more important than ever for older Americans to have access to affordable, physically accessible and well-located housing options.
Housing is critical to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. Considering current housing costs, a third of adults 50 and over—including 37 percent of those 80 and over—pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes that may or may not fit their needs, resulting in cutbacks elsewhere, including retirement savings. Much of the nation’s inventory also lacks basic accessibility features (such as no-step entries, extra-wide doorways, and lever-style door and faucet handles), preventing older persons with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes. Additionally, with a majority of older adults aging in car-dependent suburban and rural locations, transportation and pedestrian infrastructure that meets the needs of non-drivers is paramount.
“Recognizing the implications of this profound demographic shift and taking immediate steps to address these issues is vital to our national standard of living,” says Chris Herbert, acting managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. “While it is ultimately up to individuals and their families to plan for future housing needs, it is also incumbent upon policy makers at all levels of government to see that affordable, appropriate housing, as well as supports for long-term aging in the community, are available for older adults across the income spectrum.”
Of special concern are the younger baby boomers now in their 50s. While a majority of people over 45 would like to stay in their current residences as long as possible, estimates indicate that 70 percent of those who reach the age of 65 will eventually need some form of long-term care. In this regard, older homeowners are in a better position than older renters when they retire. The typical homeowner age 65 and over has enough wealth to cover the costs of in-home assistance for nearly nine years, or assisted living for 6 and half years. The typical renter, however, can only afford two months of these supports.
“As Americans age, the need for safe and affordable housing options becomes even more critical,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP Foundation. “High housing costs, aging homes, and costly repairs can greatly impact those with limited incomes.”