According to an AARP study, 87% of adults age 65 and over would prefer to stay in their own homes as they age. And who can blame them? Many of these older adults saw their own parents institutionalized in retirement and skilled nursing facilities, and want to avoid the safe fate as they age. Unfortunately, seniors must overcome significant challenges to accomplish this goal.
Lack of Affordable and Accessible Housing
Home affordability is a growing problem in the U.S. and it hits aging adults especially hard. A recent Harvard study found that although senior homeownership rates are high nationwide, nearly a third of them are cost burdened. Meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. As income levels fall with age, these seniors will be forced to pay an increasing percentage of their income to their housing costs, which leaves less money for the other necessities of life. This may force many seniors to forgo their independent lives to move in with family members. Or worse, these market forces could lead to the impoverishment of many older adults.
In addition to affordable homes, seniors also need to live in areas where they can easily access the services they need, and in homes they can continue to use as they age. The same Harvard study found that many vulnerable seniors either live alone or in low-density housing areas, which makes supporting this vulnerable population very difficult. Nearly 57% of homeowners and 77% of renters over the age of 80 live alone. And 32% of all seniors live in low density housing.
To make matters worse, the U.S. is suffering from a sever shortage of accessible housing. According to the Harvard report, “only 3.5 percent of US homes had three key features for those with mobility challenges: single-floor living, no-step entries, and extra-wide halls and doors.” But the need for those accessibility features is growing. The same report found that “26 percent of households age 50 and over included at least one person with a vision, hearing, cognitive, self-care, mobility, or independent living difficulty.”
So to summarize, today’s seniors are paying a high percentage of their income to live in homes that are removed from the services they need, which also lack the basic accessibility features needed to age-in-place.
Shortage of Qualified Healthcare Professionals
Even if seniors can successfully navigate their housing challenges, they’ll still need a great deal of outside help as they age-in-place. Every day in this country, 10,000 people turn 65. And as that slew of older baby boomers grows, it will put a huge demand on our healthcare system. Unfortunately, a report by Mercer HPA found that even though the healthcare industry will add more than two million jobs over the next 10 years, it won’t keep up with demand in key positions. By 2025, Mercer predicts shortages of:
- 446,300 home health aides.
- 95,000 nursing assistants.
- 98,700 medical and lab technologists and technicians.
- 29,400 nurse practitioners.
The shortage of home health aides is especially troubling, because they play a key role in supporting seniors as they age. If this scenario plays out according to predictions, it could mean seniors have difficulty accessing the medical care they need, in addition to facing longer wait times and increased costs.
Structural Issues with Medicare
According to the most recent statistics, nearly 48 million American rely on Medicare to cover their health care costs. While the government program has been successful in keeping health insurance affordable for many seniors, it does have significant coverage holes that make aging-in-place more challenging for seniors. For example, Medicare does provide coverage for intermittent in-home skilled nursing care, however it does not cover what it refers to as “homemaker service.” Unfortunately, these non-medical tasks like cooking, cleaning, and bathing remain vital to seniors’ health and wellbeing. But they also become increasingly difficult to accomplish as we age. So in order to avoid living in a retirement community, many seniors must pay for these necessary services out of their own pockets or rely on their spouse or other family members for help. As a result, this important link the caregiving chain is almost unavailable to those older Americans how live alone or are low-income.
Plan For Aging
These three challenges are symptoms of big structural issues the US must grapple with as its population continues to age. These challenges also further underscore how important it is for older adults to plan for aging. This covers a gamut of needs, including your home’s location and amenities, your mortgage terms, long-term care insurance, end-of-life planning, and so much more. This approach requires a lot of support and can be overwhelming for many older adults. If you’d like to get started, the AARP and Social Security Administration have tools that can help. One thing is clear, if seniors want to chart their own course as they age, they must act intentionally before it’s too late.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care offers a full range of in-home care and support services which help individuals of all ages, needs, and challenges remain safe and independent living within their own home. Services range from short-term to around-the-clock care. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living. We take a holistic approach and emphasize a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home program (for safe discharge).
- Post-operative care (short-term care during recovery period).
- Non-medical life management services (for persons with chronic conditions).
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you live in Arizona, and would like to learn more about how we can help you, a loved-one and/or your patients or clients, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.