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High-Cost Housing Creates Obstacles for Older Generation

A generation's desire to "age-in-place" has created a need for officials and policymakers at local levels to assess how well they are meeting the needs of homeowners at this life stage, according to a collaborative study by Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP PublicPolicy Institute.

"A rapidly aging population has helped spur recognition of the importance of creating livable and age-friendly neighborhoods, where people of all ages can maintain independence and high quality of life. However ... most older adults in the US do not reside in livable communities, and there are significant differences between who has access to the country’s most livable communities," wrote Jennifer Molinsky, Senior Research Associate at Harvard. "These differences depend on whether the resident is a homeowner or renter, whether they have a disability, and by race/ethnicity and income.

The researchers note that "livability" is subjective. That said, AARP's Livability Index measures key categories, including housing affordability,  accessibility, and options. The categories are explained further here.

"Using data from the Index and the American Community Survey, our report finds that renters and Asian older adults are more likely to live in high livability neighborhoods while homeowners, middle-income households, older adults with disabilities, and white older adults are more common in places of low livability," said Molinsky. "Shares of Black and Hispanic older adults hold steady across neighborhoods of all levels of livability."

The report also showed older adults who relocate are not moving to more "liveable" locations. Such moves, the data show, are essentially lateral (75%). Just 11% of this age demographic who moved made a "liveability" improvement, while 14% moved to areas with lower scores.

Following are some of the main themes found inside the report:

  • Livability Gap. There is a disconnect between what people have and what they need in communities to age in place.
  • Housing Affordability. Communities that score higher on the Index tend to have higher housing costs. High housing costs can create obstacles to accessing the benefits livable communities can provide.
  • Disparities in Access to Specific Livability Features. People of color, people with disabilities, and people with lower incomes may not have access to all of the amenities and
    services that support aging. As the analysis shows, even when living in high-scoring communities, these groups may not have access.

According to Molinsky, the report supports "policy solutions to address barriers and improve livability for people of all ages and older adults more specifically."

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at [email protected].

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