In its 2013 report, Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy, the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission identified meeting the needs of the rapidly increasing number of older Americans as a “new frontier in housing.” The work of the Senior Health and Housing Task Force grows out of the Housing Commission’s examination of this issue. The Task Force has also benefited from the insights of other BPC projects: the Long-Term Care Financing Initiative, the Prevention Initiative, the Health Innovation Initiative, and the Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings.
Over the next 15 years, the explosive growth of the nation’s senior population will present unprecedented challenges. Unfortunately, millions of Americans will find they lack enough savings to fund their retirements. Some will struggle to afford their housing, while others will find their housing is ill-suited for living independently. Many will eventually need help with the “activities of daily living,” like eating, bathing, and dressing, assistance that can be both costly and taxing on other family members. Most older Americans will suffer from at least one chronic condition.
A successful response will require a much higher level of focus and preparation than exists today in the United States. Experimentation and innovation, as well as a willingness to move beyond established conventions, are essential elements of this process. An ability to see important connections that span across the seemingly disparate disciplines of housing, architecture, health care, information technology, telecommunications, transportation, urban planning, and financial services is critical. Communities across the country must make meeting the needs of their older residents a priority consideration as they plan for the future. This work must proceed apace with the urgency it deserves.
This report examines four specific aspects of the challenge before us:
The recommendations outlined below are a call to action by a variety of actors — the Congress, members of the administration, public officials serving in state and local governments, the private sector, and leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities.