U.S. Senior Household ‘Explosion’ Demands More Aging in Place Supports

Senior households in the U.S. will see an “explosion” in the coming years, in turn making the need for more aging in place options and policies greater than ever before, a recent report suggests.

The U.S. is due for dramatic growth in the number of senior households over the coming years, with more than half of that growth driven by households over age-65, according to a recent report from the Urban Institute. 

And much of this growth is projected to occur within the next 15 years, as the Urban Institute notes that by 2030 aging Baby Boomers will expand the number of senior households in the U.S. to 46 million.

The growth of senior-headed households is huge and has been on the rise for quite some time. In 1990, there were 20 million households age-65 and up, according to the Institute. By 2010, this number grew to 25.8 million. 

Most of this dramatic growth will occur among both senior homeowners and renters. From 2010 to 2030, the Urban Institute’s research suggests that senior homeowners will increase from 20 million to nearly 34 million, while senior renters will increase from 5.8 million to 12.2 million.

Developing policies for aging in place

Countless studies on population trends have long foreshadowed the impact that a swelling graying demographic can have on the nation’s healthcare and housing industries, the sharp rise in senior households heightens the urgency of developing policies that allow older adults to stay in their homes.

“The aging of the baby boomers means that senior housing issues are becoming much more pressing, just because of the sheer number of boomers,” the authors write. “In particular, a growing body of research shows the link between housing and health. Moving forward, policy should emphasize home modification so houses are safe, healthy, and efficient for seniors to live in.”

Such policies may include encouraging more support for ways to enable seniors to age in place, the Institute says, whether that means simply making home modifications to help prevent against the risk of falls, or broadening the approach toward driving community support to give seniors a higher quality of life. 

One thing is certain: the aging of the baby boomers means that senior housing issues are becoming much more pressing, write the Urban Institute’s Laurie Goodman, Rolf Pendall and Jun Zhu in an analysis on the report’s findings.

“The sheer number of baby boomers will force policymakers and communities to confront these challenges,” they write. “With the right incentives and models, this challenge may emerge as a transformative opportunity for cities and suburbs across the U.S. to reinvigorate both the bricks and mortar and the community ties in our neighborhoods.”

Written by Jason Oliva