Monday, July 20, 2015

White House Conference on Aging shows more advocacy needed for older adults’ housing needs

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference

Last week’s  White House Conference on Aging celebrated two important developments for the wellbeing of older adults in the U.S.: the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, and the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference assembled a wide variety of stakeholders who are integral in supporting healthy and productive aging among Americans and fostered discussion of the progress the country has made in supporting the wellbeing of older adults as they age.

Speakers called out the work that still needs to be done to address the diverse and growing older adult population and their many different needs. This includes the need for affordable, accessible and supportive housing, as explored by a report from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy, Housing an Aging Population.

President Obama commented on the how the Affordable Care Act is critical to expanding opportunities for older adults to receive supportive services in their homes and communities if they need assistance to continue living independently. The Center recently examined several effective models for home- and community-based supportive services in urban, suburban and rural communities in its report, Aging in Every Place.

While speakers addressed the importance of supporting the financial security of older adults as they age, they did not address the key role affordable housing plays in the wellbeing of older adults. Almost half of the lowest income older adults devote 50 percent or more of their income to their housing. This has a major impact on their wellbeing and makes NHC’s advocacy for more affordable and accessible housing options for older adults even more critical as the number of older adults continue to rise rapidly.

As the speakers at the conference emphasized, in order to take advantage of the experience and ideas that older adults have to offer, we need to be flexible in how we envision the role of older adults in our society and give them the tools they need to continue to be independent and contributing members of our communities as they age. NHC is devoted to advocating for innovating and effective approaches to developing and preserving housing that meets the various affordability, accessibility and supportive service needs of America’s older adults. 

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