JCHS Releases Housing for Older Adults Report
The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released a study highlighting housing needs as the U.S. population ages. More than half of the nation’s householders are at least 50 years of age, and more than one-quarter are at least 65 years of age. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of households headed by adults between the ages of 65 and 74 increased by 26 percent to more than 17 million. With the aging of these “baby boomers,” the number of householders at least 80 years old will double by 2037.
The report shows that not only has the number of older adult households increased but so has the concentration of older adults. From 2000 to 2016, the number of census tracts with a majority older adult population more than tripled in the U.S. The location of these households also changed during these 16 years. In 2000, census tracts composed mostly of older adult households were primarily found in the Southeast and Southwest, but in 2016 there was a shift to northern and western states. The types of communities older adult households live in is also changing, with the share of older adults living in low-density neighborhoods increasing from 24 percent to 32 percent. This is important as low-density areas have a tendency to lack the services older adults need and single-family homes tend to be the predominant dwelling type, meaning there are fewer housing options compared to denser communities.
Also, accessible housing for people with disabilities is increasingly important as the population ages, as mobility and other functional impairments increase with age. Eleven percent of adults between 50 and 64 years of age and 43 percent of adults aged 80 and over have ambulatory problems like walking or climbing stairs. In 2011, only 3.5 percent of homes included accessibility features like single-floor living, no-step entries, and extra-wide hallways and doorways for wheelchairs.
The report concludes that everyone has a part to play in ensuring housing for older Americans is available. With the pace at which American households are aging, there’s an urgent need to prepare to meet the needs of older adult households.