Ongoing Challenges – Housing and the Elderly Population

The cost of living continues to grow every year, making it difficult for those who have saved for the future, but did not anticipate how dramatically their expenses would increase. Several of our previous posts have noted the concern that have been raised regarding our nation’s ability to cover the costs of our aging adults through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, however a recently released study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University further confirms those notions. The study found that there the current generation that has retired or is coming upon retirement is facing greater financial trouble, leading to a lack of accessible and adequate housing, a problem for a population that will double in size.


There are specific elements of housing that need to be considered for the aging population, including accessibility to entrances either by ramp or walk up, single floor housing, whether that is in an apartment or a home, as well as wider entrances and doorways and walk in bathroom units, that are compatible with the size of wheelchairs and healthcare devices. However, according to the Center, only 3.5% of homes right now currently adhere to these elements of architectural design that are critical to elders staying in their homes. While a simple fix that many may propose would be to renovate the home in order to make it accessible, these types of renovations cost thousands of dollars that many elderly individuals cannot allocate out of their budget.


In an effort to maintain their housing situation, some elderly individuals have decided to cut back on transportation, refilling medicine that may be critical to maintain their health, as well as cutting back on buying food. All of these consequences lead elders to seclude themselves, which can further exacerbate health problems. Up to 95% of informal care for elders being taken on by family members, thus, it is important for elders to continue to maintain those relationships and for family members to be able to access their elderly family member and provide assistance in a safe environment.


For those elderly adults who do not have a close family relationship to offer support, other options are emerging. Some other people are starting to live in housing facilities that offer individual living spaces but provide community meals and social events. This new co-housing method keeps individuals accountable for each other and encourages a social environment, which has been shown in many studies to help prolong health and in turn, life.

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