Policy Experts to Congress: Senior Housing System Not Ready for Silver Tsunami

Despite an overwhelming desire among seniors to age in place, most face a “harsh reality” of homes that lack the structural support to enable independent living, presenting new challenges and opportunities for housing providers, says a new Bipartisan Policy Center report.

Dramatic demographic changes from the country’s burgeoning senior population create a huge need for senior housing policy action, according to an Economic Policy Program report released by the Housing Commission, co-chaired by former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez and former U.S. senators Christopher “Kit” Bond and George J. Mitchell.

Aging in place is the most “cost-effective and financially sensible housing option” for most seniors whose physical abilities allow for it, and about 90% of Americans aged 65 and older intend to remain in their homes permanently. However, the nation is “largely unprepared” to meet the needs of those wishing to stay in their homes and communities.


“This strong desire to age in place runs into a harsh reality: Many of today’s homes and neighborhoods were designed at an earlier time before demographic changes now transforming the country were even recognized,” says the Bipartisan Policy Center. “For many seniors, their homes lack the necessary structural features and support systems that can make independent living into old age a viable, safe option.”

The desire to age in place “will challenge seniors and their children to renovate and remodel existing homes in response to healthcare and safety needs or seek out affordable rental options within their communities to accommodate a desire to downsize,” says the report, which characterizes aging in place as a “new frontier” in housing.

The report’s authors suggest retrofitting existing properties to accommodate the needs of seniors can produce savings as it reduces the cost of medical care and other services.


Locating housing with or near service providers can yield significant savings and efficiencies, the report says, by allowing adults to age in place and avoid or delay the need to move into a more expensive institutional long-term care setting.

Delivering “modest interventions and services” through senior housing can have added benefits of reducing emergency room visits and the severity of illnesses, says the Bipartisan Policy Center, which translates to lower senior care costs.

Policy recommendations listed in the report include better coordination of housing and healthcare, support for initiatives to retrofit homes and apartments for aging in place and energy conservation, and better integration of aging-in-place priorities into existing federal programs that can allocate funds to local Area Agencies on Aging and other community groups to offer in-home services for low-income age-qualified homeowners.

Read Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace