With 78 million Baby Boomers on the verge of retirement, the U.S. needs a more strategic approach to expand aging in place programs and services, according to a new Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) report.
The paper, released last week by the BPC, outlines the demographic shifts that will happen as America’s senior population expands, creating major challenges and opportunities for the nation’s health care and housing system.
A key finding highlights the need to bridge the gap between housing and health care, especially in light of the unwavering desires of older Americans to age in place.
“The strong preference to grow older in one’s own home and community stems from a desire among many seniors to remain close to family and friends and maintain the social connections that have enriched their lives,” BPC writes in the paper. “They appreciate the familiarity of their own homes as well as that of the local shopping center, the community library, and their place of worship.”
Many of the homes belonging to the nation’s older population, however, were designed at an earlier time, before the demographic changes occurring now were even recognized. To make homes fit for aging residents, improvements need to be made, which can range from simple fixes like installing grab bars in the bathroom, to more costly structural enhancements like widening hallways or eliminating the need for stairs.
The financial implications of aging in place also have a serious effect on retirement savings of seniors, considering the fact that 70% of those who reach age 65 will eventually require some form of long-term services and supports, according to a BPC report from April titled “America’s Long-Term Care Crisis: Challenges in Financing and Delivery.”
“Aging in place is not a realistic option for every senior nor is it cost-effective or even physically possible to modify every home to allow for independent living,” BPR writes. “But if aging in place is to be a realistic option for a larger share of the burgeoning senior population, a comprehensive national effort is required.”
By more tightly linking health care and housing policy, the U.S. has the potential to improve the health outcomes for seniors, reduce the costs incurred by the health care system, enable millions of seniors to ‘age in place’ in their own homes, and improve their quality of life, said Vin Weber, former U.S. Representative and co-chair of BPC’s Health and Housing Task Force.
“Making these connections is critical as federal government spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs is projected to grow much faster than the overall economy over the next 25 years,” Weber said in a written statement.
Written by Jason Oliva