On 17 April 2017, Essex Crossing (NYC real estate developer) announced that its first ‘affordable’ flats are up for grabs for seniors who are on the low-end of the income spectrum. The housing lottery is expected to provide homes to seniors who meet the eligibility requirements. Every second, there are 10,000 people turning 65 years and the population is expected to have 79 million seniors within the next two decades according to the Bureau of Census. 1 in every 5 Americans will be above 65 years by 2030. Housing for aging citizens remains a top concern in the next 20 years whether the need is for nursing care facilities, retirement communities, independent dwellings or assisted-living facilities.
Demand Outstrips Supply
The grim reality is that the demographic shift will propel the need for senior housing that is reasonably-priced. Unfortunately, the supply of inexpensive and safe housing for the elderly is smaller than the demand. This has been validated by the report of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University where it states that affordable housing options for the older population is critical.
Senior Housing Needs
Older adults who are independent express a preference to remain in their current homes. However, living spaces must be adapted to fit their physical abilities or limitations. Others though decide to resize homes and retrofit areas which are suitable for senior living. In addition, as people age, health problems and disabilities also rise. Housing for the elderly necessitates accessibility features and modifications to accommodate in-home care services.
Moreover, older adults need to be engaged with their communities and should be able to access support services. Social isolation is not a good thing for seniors who risk facing mental anxiety and depression. For those who can no longer drive, loss of independence causes stress and housing in urban areas or near to amenities help in coping with day-to-day living.
Housing Options for the Elderly
On top of affordable housing, senior citizens also face serious issues before retirement. The Insured Retirement Institute report revealed that 70% of baby boomers are not prepared financially for a comfortable retirement. Senior housing costs are incredibly expensive with the average median cost of a nursing home at $81,030 annually. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides affordable housing solutions for seniors including rent assistance, ownership and limited (assistive) services for the handicapped. However, the wait lists are long between 2 to 5 years especially for housing in urban/metro areas. What is clear is that planning early for retirement should be done including deciding where to live, how to acquire low-cost senior housing, retrofit existing homes, if suitable and consider semi-urban or rural living. On the part of the state, housing options are being expanded and financial assistance to meet housing costs should be offered. The bottom line is although much of the burden to acquire accessible housing rests on seniors, governments also play an important role in meeting this need.