Aging Baby Boomers Face Housing Challenges

Housing an Aging PopulationIt’s no secret that the growing aging population is creating a crisis in the healthcare arena. Yet few realize the impact on other segments of our economy, especially the housing market. A new report from the Center for Housing Policy asks the important question: Are we prepared?

“Housing an Aging Population – Are We Prepared?” offers a stark look at the housing challenges associated with aging baby boomers. Specifically, the report examines the demand for housing, challenges in providing meaningful choices and the toll on communities who must provide both affordable housing and adequate services.

The report highlights the effects of these housing challenges on older adults with disabilities. Currently, 38 percent of households include one person with a disability. However, one-quarter of households 65-74 years and nearly two-thirds of households 85 years or more include a person with a disability.

“As the older population grows, meeting the housing needs of older adults is certain to become a significant challenge across the nation,” says Rodney Harrell, a policy advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “States and communities need to effectively respond by adopting policies that ensure adequate, affordable housing for people of all ages.”

Key Findings Pertaining to Disabilities

Health and mobility issues in older age will mean a higher demand for home modifications, aging-in-place services and housing options to prevent older Americans from moving into nursing homes before their time. Of course, the costs for these modifications, which are mostly funded by residents, can be quite expensive depending on the nature of the modification.Households with DisabilitiesSome policies can help older adults age in place, including deferred loans or grants from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME or housing trust funds; expansion of the Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver program, volunteer efforts, and other mechanisms; housing vouchers and property tax abatement programs; and expanded public transit and volunteer driver programs.

Flexible zoning policies and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act can help expand housing choices. Of course, subsidies will be needed to ensure affordable choices, as older adults often have limited incomes.

Housing conditions for adults 65 years of age or older might not be adequate to support aging. Unsafe bathrooms, steep staircases and narrow hallways and doorways could make it difficult for those with mobility conditions to get around, which increases the risk for falls.

The primary source of the report is a 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS). Download the full report here.