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New report warns that housing could be an issue for the aging population 

According to a report by The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the US is ill-equipped to address the housing and care needs of its aging population. 

Census data reveals a remarkable 34% increase in the number of individuals aged 65 and older over the past decade, surging from 43 million in 2012 to 58 million in 2022. The report also projects a significant uptick in the population aged 80 and above in the coming decade.

Seniors who rent are already grappling with escalating monthly costs, with over 11 million seniors considered cost-burdened in 2021, allocating more than 30% of their income to housing. 

Even senior homeowners may face challenges as they age, as the study found that less than 4% of US homes have essential features of accessible housing, such as single-floor living, no-step entries, and wide hallways and doorways.

Without some kind of effort to create more senior housing, older Americans desiring to age in place may need to either relocate or undertake modifications to their existing homes. 

How to support aging in place 

Some home improvements, modifications, and repairs that support aging in place include:  

  • Install grab bars near toilets and in showers and handrails along staircases and banisters. 
  • Replace traditional doorknobs with lever-style handles, especially for those with arthritis or limited hand strength.
  • Choose slip-resistant flooring materials to reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Install ramps and eliminate raised thresholds to facilitate mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Expand doorways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Consider walk-in tubs or curbless showers.
  • Install countertops at varying heights to accommodate sitting or standing while working in the kitchen.
  • Increase the brightness of task lighting in key areas like the kitchen and bathroom to reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Integrate smart home features, such as voice-activated assistants and automated lighting. 
  • Set up emergency alert systems. 
  • Install motion-sensor lighting in hallways and staircases. 
  • Consider beds that can be adjusted in height. 
  • Choose kitchen appliances with user-friendly controls and accessible features.

Financial assistance may be available for these modifications, with many cities and towns offering grant funds through local departments of community development. Additionally, lenders may provide home equity conversion mortgages or reverse mortgages, enabling homeowners to tap into home equity for improvement expenses.

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