Where will boomers live? Harvard says…

by Louis on September 8, 2014

Where will boomers live? The new report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation says we will live in owner occupied single family homes. Not all but way more than any other housing category. This groundbreaking report corroborates what Aging in Place advocates have known all along. Now we have the currency to build our strategy.

Aging in Place grows up in this study. As a critical building block in our nation’s strategy for housing the coming onslaught of older Americans we should now call it what it really is: Long Term Care@Home. It is the best strategy for a big problem.  Harvard says so.

We are going to live in our homes because we already own them, love them, and want to age in them. We age most happily and inexpensively in the comfort and dignity of our own homes. They are the most economical site to receive care as well as taking best advantage of family and informal care. We can’t afford to build enough senior housing, nobody likes it and it is not a good or economical place to age. Long Term Care @Home is the best strategy. Harvard says so.

The key sub heading may be “Housing as the linchpin of well-being.” The cost and difficulty of health and care, especially near the end of life, is already a recognized problem. Too little retirement savings is also recognized. This report is clear: the availability of supportive services is an aspect of housing as residents age.   We can’t really fix healthcare without dealing with housing. / Getting housing right is a big step to fixing healthcare. Harvard says so.

Accounts of the report, Housing America’s Older Adults refer to housing as the next crisis or the next housing crisis is seniors. Why is it a crisis? and Is it only for boomers? Demographics. The report has plenty of good tables on population size housing costs and increasing disability that accompanies aging. Housing current ‘seniors’ is a problem but the situation will grow quickly to crisis because of the huge boomer cohort and our continually extending lives. More people. Living longer. Longer lives means more disability and chronic health conditions which require appropriate housing, care and medical expense. A bunch of this without sufficient resources and infrastructure and you have a full blown crisis. How can we avoid the crisis? Long Term Care @Home is the best strategy. Harvard says so.

What are the barriers?

  1. Accessibility. Our houses are not designed to accommodate disability or care.
  2. The ratio of caregivers to needs is growing worse.
  3. Connections are critical. This includes healthcare and shopping as well as social and spiritual. Transportation is hard, especially for those living in the car dependent suburbs. Current transit systems are designed for the driving, ambulatory workforce.
  4. Housing affordability. Too many older Americans are forced to tough decisions between rent or mortgage, medicine and food. (any is too many)

The solutions are a combination of:

  • Individual responsibility
  • Seizing opportunities and entrepreneurship
  • Government programs and incentives.

We have the responsibility to prepare our homes, finances and health. But we need education and encouragement. Exercise can have an almost unbelievable impact. Corporate wellness and chronic disease self management have shown just how well encouragement can work. Similar programs for home modifications and savings are needed. (see #2)

Small and large business – products, tech, services, healthcare and insurance all have opportunities here. The burden of deciding, organizing and managing care for our loved ones needs to be transferred from family to professionals who do this every day using technologies that integrate needs and solutions. We need better choices between medicaid and expensive continuing care retirement communities. Most care is paid out of pocket. Many families will spend more if a better customer experience is available.  New models, more easily tried outside the requirements of government regulations and silos that make innovation impossible, can spread from the private sector to the eligibility sector.

One private sector example is premium breaks for safer homes. That will increase construction spending, save insurance dollars and reduce individual misery and expense. Win Win Win.

Our best return will come from the use of private resources. Governments at all levels must use incentives and regulations to help business facilitate individuals to do the right things. Accessibility can be required for new buildings. Accessory apartments make more housing options available to more people. Tax breaks can encourage accessible renovations or new building. Training and installation programs that make homes safer, similar to successful weatherization programs, are another good idea.

Helping individuals to take steps to secure their own housing and health future saves health dollars by reducing the portion of our lives that requires costly care. (compression of morbidity) In turn that preserves the limited safety net moneys for those with the most limited resources.

Since the money to pay for homes and services comes from private resources, and private business will do the building, remodeling and provide services the answer… to the impending crisis in housing and care for our older Americans is in the private sector. Government can encourage and incentivize but the opportunity, innovation and motivation …is plain old American ingenuity.

“Given the scale of the challenges ahead, the time to act is now.”    final line from the report

Solving the impending crisis in Housing America’s Older Adults is a rare instance where consumer preference, best practice and good use of capital converge. Watch and participate as we lead the way to America’s Long Term Care@Home future. Harvard says so.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Bonnie Moore September 8, 2014 at 4:33 pm


Good Information! And it’s very true. I’m not old yet (only 69) but I have no intention of moving out of my home!

There is another aspect to this, and that is the large number of people who go into their senior years as a single adult….either divorced, widowed, or never married. Those of us who fit in this category are discovering something else…it is more fun and more economical to live together. There are many forms of shared living developing as a movement…co-housing, intentional communities, purchasing together, and shared housing.

I’m involved in the shared housing piece of this…I’ve developed a registry for single mature adults who are interested in sharing their existing homes and living the Golden Girls Lifestyle. GoldenGirlsNetwork.com is the national website for those over 40, both men and women, who would like to meet others and share a home together.


Kathi Rabil September 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Bonnie, love this option too. Thanks for sharing!


Kathi Rabil September 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Thanks for sharing, Louis. Some very good points made here. If we are able to move forward with DFL in Montgomery County, I’m sure we will be talking.


Terri Kaufman October 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Kathi and Louis, I am in Montgomery County, MD, too. Very surprised by the lack of 1-level housing in new development around here — that plus prohibitive cost of custom building for every couple/individual leaves most people…where? Would love to tackle the problem as an advocate where there are openings in metro-accessible in-fill areas or new residential development such as the approaching EYA/Tower Oaks Planned Development in Rockville which leaves us an opening for “construction of housing for aging population.”


Craig McBurney September 10, 2014 at 6:28 am

This piece is critical and needs the widest circulation possible – and your comment Bonnie is on a topic I’ve been hearing about on west coast which I happen to believe is going to be an important piece of the puzzle (we are in many homes with only one person where all family/friends are gone – can happen if one makes it to 90+, solutions is new friends/roomies!…

Louis, great share, want to add more later but had to say thanks for this…pushing out wide and far to our stakeholders…


John Williams September 10, 2014 at 11:55 am

Hi Louis,

At the Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation we are creating programs which support aging in community. I’m not sure if you are aware of our linkAges Program, which includes components which help older adults remain in their own homes?

linkAges TimeBank (http://timebank.linkAges.org) is a service exchange program which is primarily focused on seniors. linkAges Connect is signals technology which allows caregivers to monitor their parents’ utility patterns remotely in case of anomalies which might suggest a threat to health and wellbeing.

Do you know Dr. Paul Tang? He is our Chief Innovation Officer and a national authority on health care technology. I would love to connect the two of you.

Thank you.

John (650-691-6188)


Louis November 25, 2014 at 10:17 am

John, Thanks so much for writing. I apologize for the delay. I have been swamped. I do not know Dr Tang but am familiar with the work in Palo Alto. I am most interested in the connections. Thanks, Louis


Linda Stotsky September 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm


Great article! As a boomer myself, I would like to see the co-sharing market explode, increasing our ability to not merely live in a home, but to share resources with others, enabling MORE people to live at home, and ENJOY life. This includes part-time co-shares, multi-generational co-shares and gender specific co-shares. Think golden girls without the drama


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