The baby boomers are aging, and are beginning to look toward where and how they intend to age. Most are interested in aging-in-place, meaning living in their own homes even after reaching the point where they need assistance. Studies show it’s not only the most attractive solution, but it may be the most healthy for many of us.
Is your home ready for your plan to age-in-place? It’s not just about making sure your home is accessible, it’s also about looking at your community with an eye toward aging. Is your town walkable if you can no longer drive? Are there resources in place for Seniors? Check out where to look to get that information on your community, and much more about how to get your house in order for aging-in-place!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Age-friendly cities. Especially if you’re living in a rural or suburban area, think about what would happen if you couldn’t drive to do your errands, visit friends, and get to recreational activities.
So when you’re moving, consider whether your future city or town is age-friendly and has accessible transit and pedestrian-friendly features that will allow you to move around freely if you can no longer drive.
For more on age-friendly cities, see the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities and its checklist of essential features of age-friendly cities. Also check walkscore to measure the walkability of a given city or address.