Older Americans Being Squeezed Out
of Housing Market in Retirement
Study by Harvard center and AARP
expresses special concern about baby boomers with lower incomes, wealth,
homeownership rates and more debt than generations before
4, 2014 - America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented
growth, but the country is not prepared to meet the housing needs of
this aging group, concludes a new report released today by the Harvard
Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP Foundation.
Housing is critical to quality of
life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. 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 that may or may not fit their needs, forcing them to
cut back on food, health care, and, for those 50-64, retirement savings.
Much of the nation’s housing
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 is generally ill-suited to
those who aren’t able to drive, which can isolate them from friends and
family. Finally, disconnects between housing programs and the health
care system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care
needs at risk of premature institutionalization.
“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
“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
Of special concern as the older
population in the U.S. continues to swell are the younger baby boomers
who are now in their 50s. With lower incomes, wealth, homeownership
rates, and more debt than generations before them, members of this large
age group may be unable to cover the costs of appropriate housing or
long-term care in their retirement years.
Indeed, 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
“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. The
goal in our support of this report is to address the most critical needs
of these households and it is AARP Foundation’s aim to provide the tools
and resources to help them meet these needs now and in the future.”
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