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Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies Report

Posted: September 4, 2014

This week I attended a national event to release an important study that documents the urgent need for more senior housing AND cites JCHE as a national best practice!

Kudos to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies for producing a thoughtful and important report “Housing America’s Older Adults”.  This comprehensive study appropriately raises alarm bells that “the existing housing stock is unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordability, accessibility, social connectivity and supportive services.”  They further point out that “ensuring that these older adults have the housing they need to enjoy high-quality, independent and financially secure lives has thus taken on new urgency . . . for the nation as a whole.”

The report calls for concerted efforts at all levels of government as well as by the private and nonprofit sectors to meet the housing challenges ahead. The report emphasizes the need for housing that is affordable, accessible, non-isolating and facilitating health care and other supports.  JCHE housing is all of these things and we are ready to partner to meet the challenges ahead.

The report quantifies what we’ve been observing: aging brings increasing risks of disability, isolation and financial stress.  The facts have real life implications:

  • By age 85, more than 2/3 of individuals have some type of disability.  They often live in housing where there are no bathrooms or bedrooms on the ground floor, even though they can’t do stairs without great difficulty.  Doorways are too narrow for their walkers and bathtub walls present great hurdles to entering a shower.  The costs and project management needs to modify the homes are prohibitive—so they cannot live safely or comfortably.
  • Seniors, especially those over 85, largely live alone and regularly miss activities they would like to attend due to the difficulty of getting there.  We find that when engaging in activities is as simple as walking down a hallway or popping in an elevator, our residents engage on a daily basis in social events.  This is nearly impossible for those living in isolated, suburban single-family homes.
  • Among people aged 65 and over, about half of all renters and owners still paying off mortgages are housing cost burdened.  These households do not have enough money for housing costs, food and medicines.  It gets worse as people hit 85 years of age or more.  According to the report:  “the lack of accessible, affordable housing can result in premature stays in nursing homes or the inability to return home after a hospitalization.”

Summary:  Harvard confirms that JCHE is doing the right thing in reducing isolation, providing accessible homes and providing the ultimate safety net for our treasured elders.  What we do is needed more than ever and that it is in the nation’s best interest to invest in expanding JCHE and its counterparts, and to do it NOW.  Thank you, Harvard Joint Center, for documenting the urgency of senior, supportive housing where people can age in community.

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