Number of High-Income Seniors Increases, But Housing Costs Still Burdensome

The number of older people who have high incomes has increased substantially in the past 30 years, but many seniors are still very burdened by housing costs and less than a quarter live in long-term care or community settings, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics.

The study, Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well Being, examines the health, finances and well being of the 65+ population by presenting data on 37 critical aspects of aging Americans’ lives in categories including population, economics and health care. 

While the proportion of older Americans who are considered “high income” increased from 18% to 31% between 1974 and 2010, with middle-income seniors accounting for the biggest proportion at 34%, housing continues to account for the largest proportion of total household expenditures for the aging population.


About four in ten seniors spend more than one-third of their expenditures on housing costs, resulting in a “housing burden,” and many also face overcrowded and physically inadequate housing, according to the survey. 

Unsurprisingly, the use of long-term care services increases with age, but the percentage of total healthcare costs spent on long-term care and skilled nursing facilities by Medicare beneficiaries actually decreased from 20% in 1992 to 2009. The proportion of income spent on long-term care and nursing facilities has also gone down, according to the study.

Americans aged 85 and older are the most likely group to use health care outside of their home. The survey reports 14% of seniors aged 85+ live in long-term care facilities and 8% live in community housing offering assistance with daily activities. Only 3% of seniors aged 65-74 live in care facilities. 


Of the seniors who live in assisted housing, 48% report access to help with medications and 84% reported they had access to meal preparation services. A majority of long-term care and nursing facility residents report access to housekeeping and laundry services. 

The report also shows that as seniors age, they invest more time in leisure activities, with watching television as the most common activity among seniors surveyed. On the other hand, only 11% of seniors report using leisure time for aerobic or strength building activities. 

Additionally, the financial stability of the aging population, according to the survey, has led to a decrease in the number of older Americans living in poverty, and the proportion of seniors living off high income has increased from 18% in 1974 to 31% in 2010. Middle income seniors make up the largest economic group at 31%. 

Check out the full report.

Written by Erin Hegarty