Before the pandemic hit the U.S., low-income renters and homeowners were already experiencing an increase in housing insecurity. According to the National Council on Aging, over 25 million Americans aged 60 and over are economically insecure with over half of Black and Hispanic seniors incomes below 200% of the Federal poverty line. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018). As the cost of living continues to increase, it widens the gap aging seniors face in finding affordable housing options. These compounding issues can cause stress, not only for seniors but for their loved ones as well.
The golden rule for housing affordability is that households spend less than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. However, the limited availability of affordable housing means that many low-income renters and senior homeowners spend more than 30 percent on housing costs. This, in turn, continues to take away from other essential needs like food and healthcare.
How Housing and Health Are Linked
The National Council of Aging states that eighty percent of adults 65 and older have at least one chronic condition, while 68% have two or more. Seniors living with a disability or chronic illness have increased healthcare burdens that can significantly limit the housing they can afford. It also positions lower-income families to be financially insecure, causing households to choose between basic essentials like heat or food.
The saying goes that a healthy home promotes a healthy lifestyle. Studies show poor housing conditions are linked to increased health risks from environmental factors such as poor indoor air quality and other physical hazards. Inadequate housing contributes to chronic disease, negatively impacts a senior’s emotional health, and reinforces physical stress.
HOW AGING HOMEOWNERS CAN MAINTAIN THEIR SECURITY
Current homeowners struggling to pay mortgage payments have options available to ease the financial burden. Extending the life of a loan with mortgage refinancing gives senior homeowners the opportunity to decrease the monthly mortgage payment and have a better balance on essential living expenses.
Considering a reverse mortgage is also an option for aging seniors in need of financial assistance. A reverse mortgage option allows a senior homeowner to borrow against the equity of their home and receive monthly payments from the home’s value rather than paying down the cost of the loan. Utilizing a reverse mortgage can help seniors pay for in-home care, age in place, consolidate debt, and pay for a higher cost of living.
MULTIGENERATIONAL HOUSING AND AGING IN PLACE
A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition explains that Black, Native American, Latino, and Asian households are more likely than White households to be extremely low-income renters. However, many multicultural families and other minority seniors have the advantage of living within a multigenerational housing structure. For many aging minorities, living a multigenerational lifestyle is rooted within their culture and entwined with their beliefs, attitudes, and customs of a family.
But, this living situation has the potential to remedy senior and family housing insecurities by pooling a family’s resources together to form one multigenerational household. This allows the family structure to better allocate resources and meet financial needs. The family’s combined income makes it easier to afford things like assistive eldercare, healthcare costs, basic living necessities. Studies conducted on the benefits of multicultural living have shown to improve seniors’ mental health by decreasing loneliness throughout the day and a higher quality of living.
“Aging In Place” reports that about 90% of seniors intend to remain in their current homes for the next 5-10 years. Aging in place within a multigenerational lifestyle provides seniors with the best opportunities for living a higher quality of life. It combats senior loneliness and helps keep family and community connections. However, not all seniors have the availability to age in place.
HOUSING SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT SENIORS
Seniors and family caregivers should also consider whether assisted living facilities could be utilized. Assisted living facilities can vary greatly depending on a senior’s needs. They range from supervised, supportive group housing to housing that offers limited assistance. Housing and Urban Development recognizes the shortage of affordable housing and has resources to help seniors with costs.
The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program provides low-income seniors with options to live independently. Furthermore, it prioritizes an increased quality of life. Medicaid programs and managed care organizations also provide housing-related costs and services to help with relocation and eviction prevention. The actual services that Medicaid covers vary by state and programs offered.
These are just some of the many ways aging seniors can obtain and maintain housing security. Check out these housing resources below to find additional ways to close the housing gap and end housing insecurity.