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Housing

Can America’s Aging Stay in Their Homes?

A recent report outlines a number of challenges to aging in place.
relates to Can America’s Aging Stay in Their Homes?
Joe Skipper/Reuters

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies recently published a report with stunning statistics on housing and aging. By 2035, one in three U.S. households, versus today’s one in five, will be headed by someone 65 or older. This will also mean an American population with one in five people over 65—almost 80 million people—up from one in seven today. That’s an increase of more than 30 million people over the next 20 years.

Many of these Baby Boomers, the report notes, intend to “age in place,” or stay in their homes or communities. This is where the report sounds an alarm: In many ways, we’re just not ready. For example, only 1 percent of housing stock is currently equipped with no-step entrances, single-floor living, wide halls and doorways to allow a wheelchair, electrical controls reachable from a wheelchair, and lever-style handles on faucets and doors—“universal design” elements that help occupants age in their homes. The report highlights accessibility challenges, as well as other hurdles for an aging population: affordability, the need for in-home care, and the potential for isolation.