Supporting development of various senior living community models, encouraging developers to incorporate universal design, creating flexible zoning rules, and providing assistance for aging-in-place retrofits are some policy suggestions that could help the nation get ready for the impending silver tsunami, according to the Center for Housing Policy.
“We all know it’s coming—baby boomers are about to swell the ranks of older Americans,” begins the Center’s recently released study looking into the nation’s preparation to house an aging population.
The 65+ population is expected to increase from 40 million to more than 88 million by 2050, encompassing 20% of Americans, according to census data, and the 85+ population will triple during this timeframe to 19 million.
“Demand for housing will shift dramatically and the need for services to help older adults age in place will grow exponentially,” the researchers say, citing an AARP survey that 90% of respondents wish to remain in their homes “as long as possible.”
However, the nation’s old, poor households are faced with severe housing cost burdens, and it will be necessary to pay more attention to housing and supportive services for the aging population, especially as nearly half of low-income seniors spend more than half of their income on housing.
The Center lists eight policy considerations that could aid aging in place and give older adults more housing options:
- Make homes more affordable—Provide property tax relief programs for income- and age-eligible households, or use housing vouches to help older renters remain in their apartments.
- Assisted with home modification—Provide technical assistance, volunteer labor, or funding for home retrofits through loans or grants from Community Development Block Grants, housing trust funds, and other sources.
- Connect residents to social services—Expand Medicaid’s Home- and Community-Based Services waiver program to provide services for seniors in their homes and communities, rather than in nursing homes. Ramp up models that provide those ineligible for Medicaid with services to aid aging in place.
- Expand transportation options—Give transit agencies more funding to extend coverage areas and accessibility of transportation options; promote programs to provide transportation for seniors who don’t have public transit options.
- Encourage universal design in new homes—Require government-subsidized housing to incorporate universal design principles, and change building codes to encourage market-rate housing developers to build senior-friendly homes.
- Create flexible zoning rules—Modify zoning codes to enable multigenerational housing, including “granny flats,” and modify siting for residential units located near transit, shopping, and other community amenities.
- Preserve and expand the supply of affordable rental housing—Preserve existing affordable rental housing that currently needs rehabilitation or is in danger of opting out of subsidized housing programs, and expand funding for new affordable rental property development.
- Enhance consumer choice—Support development of senior living models such as assisted living, continuing care retirement communities, and congregate housing; expand access to housing and care developments through the PACE (Programs of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) model; and experiment with cohousing efforts. Provide access to affordable housing options to families of every income category; in addition to ramping up programs for low-income households, develop programs for households that “fall between the cracks” with incomes too high for low-income housing tax credits, but too low to sustainably afford market-rate supportive housing.
“It’s to everyone’s advantage to find solutions that allow older adults to age in place (or in a community setting of their choice) with appropriate services, avoiding costly nursing home care,” says the Center.
View the 2012 report, “Housing an Aging Population,” here.
Written by Alyssa Gerace