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Harvard Medical School says….

by Louis on June 29, 2015

Harvard Medical School’s Health Beats lists modifying your house as the first of six ways you can prepare to age well. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing studies said about the same thing in a report I wrote about in September 2014. That was housing studies talking about housing. Not such a big deal. This is Harvard Medical School recommending a housing solution to a health problem.  We expect them to say something about eating or exercising..they mention avoiding falls second (and your house is one of the four or five factors in falls reduction, too) but housing at the top of their list is a surprise. This screams for attention. Our houses are key to aging well. Harvard Medical School says so.

This is not just a pat on the back for advocates. This is a call to individuals, leaders and policy makers to make this happen. Our health system, our federal budget, our individual retirement budgets and the burden we place on our families and the whole next generation of supporting workers depends on taking action. What leads to action?

The mortgage deduction works well, most Americans own homes. Solar tax credits had quite an impact recently.  In general, once we agree on a priority- whether it is landing on the moon, a national highway system, home weatherization, low income housing – policy approaches – incentives, subsidies, credits…motivate private investment. Since the bulk of long term care will occur in single family owner occupied homes the private investment we seek is from individual homeowners. Our task is to develop policies that motivate individuals to buy products and contract to get the work done. The result will be aging well for those who take action, as well as financial relief to our budget and health systems.

Who cares? Wrong question. Who should care? Individuals and families. Manufacturers and the design and construction industry. Organizations committed to better lives for older citizens. People concerned of the federal budget. Health insurers and providers. In short: EVERYONE.

To whom should the policies be directed? Those who own homes and have some resources – savings, equity, salaries to invest. Policies will motivate them. Their dollars will go further, revitalizing our housing infrastructure to meet current and future needs. This is not a giveaway. This is a stimulus package not very different than the policies that built the houses in the first place. And we all reap the reward and savings.

What roles must stakeholders take? Money, influence, fist pumping and flag waving. We need it all to raise the issue, build support and insist on policies to solve this national problem before it is a crisis. The homeowners who want to age in place and have the resources to invest if motivated are a huge constituency that votes!

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