Housing America's Older Adults 2023 Report Summary

Posted By: Emma Carrasco News,

Coalition for Home Repair members have helped more than 72,000 older adults age in place through home repairs and modifications. Many members see helping older adults age in place as one of their top priorities.

Last week, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), hosted a webinar announcing the release of their Housing America’s Older Adults 2023 report. The webinar featured a panel discussion with Elizabeth Chen (Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs), Robert Kramer (National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care), Jennifer Molinsky (JCHS), and Megan Rose (LeadingAge California). 

The Housing America’s Older Adults 2023 report uniquely considers housing and the cost of care as a dual burden. Here are a few takeaways as they relate to our Coalition’s work and mission: 

Older households have high homeownership rates, but disparities persist.

  • “In general, rates of chronic conditions and functional difficulties such as mobility or self-care increase with age. However, on average, people of color and older adults with lower incomes experience these functional difficulties earlier in life. Functional difficulties make it harder for people to enter their homes, to navigate them, and to use it; less than 4% of houses include these 3 key accessibility features: single floor living, no step entrance, and extra wide hallways. Modifications are an increasingly important tool because better fit housing can increase independence for people who have mobility difficulties.” - Samara Sheckler, JCHS Research Associate

The number of cost-burdened older adults are at an all-time high. 

  • In 2021, approximately 11.2 million adults were housing cost-burdened, compared to 9.7 million in 2016. There is a rising share of adults carrying mortgage debt into retirement–between 1989 and today, the share of people who are homeowners in their 80s and over carrying mortgages jumped from 3 to 31%.

  • Jennifer Molinsky with JCHS stated that finding ways to help older homeowners protect their investments through assistance with maintenance and repairs is important. Many older adults who own without a mortgage forego property insurance, including disaster insurance. Addressing the cost and access of insurance can help protect the equity older adult homeowners have built.

Demand for care increases with age and is out of reach for most older adults.

  • Only 13% of older adults (age 75 and over) across 97 US metros could afford assisted living without dipping into assets. This theme was further explored in the panel discussion–housing and long-term care services are generally expensive and are beyond the means of most people, not just those with low and moderate incomes.

  • Elizabeth Chen, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs spoke about the PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) model which is centered on the core belief that most elders would choose to receive care in their homes and communities rather than in a nursing home. In Massachusetts, this program is administered by MassHealth and Medicare.

You can find the full report, explore the interactive maps/data, and watch the webinar recording here.

The findings in this report not only bring continued awareness to framing housing as a public health issue but also demonstrate the immense need for more programs and resources that promote a better quality of life for older adults – one example: the provision of more funds and access to home repair and modification programs. We will continue to advocate for this need and appreciate your participation in our advocacy journey

We are stronger together.