Last week, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) published a report about America’s expanding senior population and the challenges it will bring to the country’s existing health care and housing networks. The report, Healthy Aging Begins at Home, was developed by the BPC’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force, which is led by former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez and former U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber.
According to the report, by 2030, seniors 65 and older will account for more than 20 percent of America’s population, a 6 percent increase from today. The report also says that the increasing number of aging Americans will place a substantial burden on existing systems, including senior housing and health care. Concluding that a comprehensive national approach to integrate health care and housing for seniors is necessary to counteract the increasing number of vulnerable Americans experiencing hardship as they age, the report makes four recommendations:
- Build more affordable housing for seniors;
- Enable more seniors to age in place;
- Better integrate senior health care and housing; and
- Embrace technology to support successful aging.
To address the lack of affordable housing available for seniors, BPC recommends significantly expanding the Housing Credit. In addition, the report recommends creating a new federal program that uses project-based rental assistance and the Housing Credit to finance new construction and attract funding for health care programs.
The report states that 88 percent of seniors responding to a 2014 AARP survey said they would like to stay in their current residence for as long as possible. However, according to the report, only 3.8 percent of housing units in America are adequately equipped to accommodate people with moderate mobility difficulties. Additionally, the report estimates that over the next 20 years nearly 40 percent of people over the age of 62 will have financial assets of $25,000 or less and 20 percent will have less than $5,000. To address this mismatch between housing needs and resources, BPC recommends that Congress create a new Modification Assistance Initiative under the Department of Health and Human Services that will ensure federal resources for home modifications are more effectively utilized and coordinated.
The task force found that the best way to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs for seniors is to focus on home care. Increased funding to programs and initiatives that will better enable seniors to age in place can improve the health of America’s seniors and significantly enhance their quality of life, according to the report.