New Research Stresses Accessibility, Affordability of Aging in Place

Various types of service providers from builders and designers of homes to reverse mortgage consultants and Realtors have showed their commitment to the future of aging-in-place as a retirement necessity. 

The future of aging in place with respect to the current housing market and senior housing preferences are spelled out in a study from MetLife Market Institute, finding indicators for the best places where boomers can live into their older years without moving. 

Whether it is providing older adults with affordable living options, home renovations to meet the needs of its aging inhabitants, or supplying them with financial equity during retirement, professionals are playing pivotal roles in creating what MetLife calls “livable” communities to foster the aging in place initiative.

Conducted as joint research between MetLife Market Institute and the Stanford Center on Longevity, the Livable Community Indicators for Sustainable Aging in Place study measures indicators that make the best communities for people transitioning into the older age group. 

A key finding of the research was housing that is accessible, affordable and adaptable to the changing needs over an individual’s lifespan is a critical component of a livable community. 

About 29% of U.S. homeowners age 65 and older live in homes built before 1950, according to study findings, many of which do not include physical features that improve accessibility for older individuals with impairments or disabilities.

Affordable housing could be a “major barrier” to aging in place, MetLife suggests, as a 2004 survey from the Center for Home Care Policy Research found that a majority of adults claimed they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

The same survey also reported that more than one-third expressed they are note confident their current home will remain affordable as they age.

These seniors not able to cover their housing costs may be at an increased risk for relocation to other housing options such as low-cost housing and even nursing homes, MetLife writes. 

“We know people generally prefer to remain where they are as they age, connected to friends and family, and communities lose an economic and social asset when older people leave,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. 

Strategies to achieve change include adopting incremental changes, focusing initially on low-cost policies and programs, and partnering with other stakeholders, the study writes. 

“Local governments should think about how to adapt these indicators to best meet the needs of their residents,” said Amanda Lehning, who collaborated with the Stanford Center on Longevity on the report. 

Efforts to help seniors age in place also has the potential to improve the community as a whole, Lehning says, as older adults not only can make valuable contributions as neighbors, caregivers and volunteers, but also patronize local businesses and are a factor in tax revenues. 

View the report

Written by Jason Oliva

Jason Oliva