According to Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035, by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (HJCHS), by the year 2035, more than one in five people in the U.S. will be at least 65 years old as the over-65 population increases from 48 million to 79 million. Further, the report shows that one in three households will be headed by someone in that age group, which increase the demand for affordable, accessible housing that is well-connected to services beyond what current supply can meet.
HJCHS adds that this growth will increase the demand for properties with design elements such as zero-step entrances, single-floor living, and wide halls and doorways. Despite this desire, the report notes that currently, only 3.5 percent of homes offer all these features.
“The housing implications of this surge in the older adult population are many,” said Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, “and call for innovative approaches to respond to growing need for housing that is affordable, accessible and linked to supportive services that will grow exponentially over the next two decades.”
Data from the report indicates that in coming years, many older adults will have the financial means to pay for appropriate housing, but many others will be faced with financial hardships do to declining incomes in retirement. In total, the report estimates, by 2035 8.6 million people will be paying more than half their income for housing.
“Right now, more than 19 million older adults live in unaffordable or inadequate housing, and that problem will only grow worse in the next two decades as our population ages,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of AARP Foundation, which provided funding for the report. “This important follow-up study to Harvard’s ground-breaking 2014 report on housing America’s older adults not only calls attention to important trends but also helps point to the kind of solutions—requiring cross-sector collaboration between the housing industry, policymakers, and public, private and philanthropic organizations—that will fulfill older adults’ ardent desire to continue living independently at home with security and dignity.”
The report notes that data indicates that older adults express a desire to live at home for as long as possible, but HJCHS adds that this will require public and private action to support modifications to existing homes and take steps to address the affordability challenges for homeowners.
“Today, however, we only serve one-third of those who qualify for assistance,” said Jennifer Molinsky, Senior Research Associate at the Joint Center and lead author of the report. “Just continuing at this rate—which would be a stretch—would leave 4.9 million people to find affordable housing in the private market.”