One in Three U.S. Households Will be 65+ By 2035

The statistics about the waves of baby boomers turning 65 each day are old news to anyone who works in a senior-focused industry.

But a new report from Harvard University adds a new twist to measuring the coming wave of American seniors: In 2035, households with members aged 65 and older will account for a full third of the homes in the country.

That’s one of the conclusions from a new report published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard, which releases an annual look at the complexion of the U.S. housing market. And this year, the researchers specifically pointed out the ways elders will dominate the market for decades to come.


At present, 65-and-olders represent about one in four U.S. households, up from one in five just 10 years ago — thanks to a gain of 7 million senior households over that span. And in a little over 15 years, that number will grow to one in three.

“The aging of the U.S. population has also boosted the number of older households because the baby-boom generation is so much larger than the preceding generation,” the JCHS observed.

Homes headed by those 65 and older were also the only age group that had a higher rate of homeownership in 2017 than they did in 1987.

That growth is coming at the expense of the younger millennial generation, which despite reaching the age that their predecessors were when they began buying homes and starting families, still lags behind.

“In fact, household headship rates among young adults are still declining, albeit more slowly than after the recession,” the JCHS wrote in its report. “Indeed, 26% of adults aged 25-34 were living with parents or other relatives in 2017, while 9% were doubling up with non-family members — both shares all-time highs.”

In addition, adults of all ages are far less likely to move than in years past. While the greatest declines in household mobility have been concentrated among the young, the 65-and-older set has also become increasingly more entrenched in their existing properties.

“Many of the growing number of older households are staying in their homes longer than previous generations at their ages, rather than downsizing or moving to rentals,” the JCHS observed.

Demographic shifts also play a role: Even though the move rate for Americans aged 65 and older dropped by just a percentage point, the sheer volume of aging baby boomers means that change represents “significantly fewer residential moves.”

“There is no doubt that the number of older adults will reach an unprecedented high over the next two decades,” the Harvard team concluded. “With this growth will come different demands, challenges, and stresses on the housing stock.”

Written by Alex Spanko

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  • These are amazing predictions. This shows the change in the housing market with the graying of the US. It would seem that reverse mortgages should become more popular over the next fifteen years.

    What the RMD summary did not provide was any insight on how it is predicted housing costs will be paid. Since it seems from the summary that younger people will be living with their older relatives, is it expected that housing costs will be shared? In other words will the growing trend provide seniors with more cash flow, less, or will it be essentially neutral?

    Among financial advisers there is a growing trend being encountered of seniors taking less out of their retirement asset base monthly than advisers had predicted. While many financial advisers have shown concern that the Bengen 4% decumulation rate may not be high enough, pragmatically the question is becoming whether that rate might not be too high. Like so many financial situations, the facts and circumstances of the senior weigh into whether 4% is too much, too little, or just right.

    Yet is there a direct correlation between the trend cited by the summary above and the financial needs of seniors? Is such a correlation impacting the HECM decision or is it all bound up in lower PLFs and the reversion of the MIP structure?

    If on the other hand, the financial strain of retirement is being further stressed by renewed taking up of the housing and other obligations of children, to some degree, the result should mean more seniors needing the help that reverse mortgages provide. Understanding the trends in senior housing issues and their financial obligations should help us understand how to gear our message so that we are better prepared to identify their financial problems and then provide solutions.

    • James,
      I’ve read this commentary and another one, on Shelley G’s article. Good Insight and commentary on your part. Thank you for sharing.

  • John,
    I hear you. October 2, 2017 was tough. But, we’ve had changes, many beneficial, in the last 5 years. We have much work to do, advocating for our seniors and the use of Home Equity in retirement. Your insight, as well, is greatly appreciated. Thank you
    Tony Miller, Reverse Mortgage Lending Manager Academy Mortgage

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