The Future of Housing

(The following excerpts are taken from AARP Bulletin, January-February 2016 Vol. 57 No. 1; written by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO)
A recent report by AARP Foundation and the Harvard Joint Center of Housing Studies found that nearly 20 million older adults live in unaffordable and unsafe housing. Twenty million households are paying over 30 percent of their income on housing, and almost 10 million households are paying over 50 percent. Plus, only 1 percent of all housing stock in the U.S. has the recommended universal design features–such as a step-free entry, multiple countertop heights, wide doorways, lever faucets, and a curbless shower with a handheld adjustable showerhead. With 10,000 people turning 65 each day for the next 15 years, the situation is only going to get worse unless we do something to change it.
That’s why, last month, AARP and AARP Foundation joined with Atlantic LIVE and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to convene a two-day summit on the future of housing. We brought together experts from a wide array of industries to address the challenges of creating homes and neighborhoods that meet the needs of people of all ages. Nearly 9 of 10 people age 65 and older want to remain in their homes and communities as they get older. But far too often, their communities and their homes don’t fit them anymore. Instead of being a place that makes them feel safe, secure and comfortable, just the opposite happens. Their homes and communities become barriers to remaining independent and engaged in society. There is a lack of housing with basic features that support aging. There are not enough options that would allow them to downsize, but stay in their neighborhoods. And there is a lack of affordable housing as well as access to services that can help a community serve people of all ages, incomes and abilities.
I believe that technology, innnovation and collaboration can help us create a future of housing that will bring us new choices and new ways to live engaged, purposeful and meaningful lives as we age. But we need a new focus, not just on senior housing, but housing for an entire lifetime, housing for all generations and all income levels that allows us to live comfortably in good health, go where we want to go safely and remain active and engaged in society. And we must all work together to achieve it. To learn more about what AARP is doing to make housing more affordable and accessible, go to aarp.org/futureofhousing.