Our parents and grandparents have been there for us since we took our first breath. They saw us take our first steps, celebrated when we graduated high school and college, and helped us into adulthood. Now it’s time to take care of them. One of the largest problems that plague older Americans is housing.
Seniors may struggle to make payments and find living options that offer the care levels they need. Explore the current state of affordable housing in America and discover ways that you can support older Americans.
The Current State of Affordable Housing for Seniors
According to a study reported by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), one in five Americans will be older than age 65 in 2030, and one in eight will be older than age 75 by 2040. Healthier living and advances in medical treatment help to support an expanding lifespan, with many people expected to live to age 80. AARP also noted that the increased lifespan makes planning for retirement more complex, as adults who retire at 65 must save enough to support themselves for the next 15 to 30 years.
One of the major expenses that seniors face is housing. AARP has also stated that one-third of adults (20 million) older than 50 put more than 30 percent of their income toward housing, and 9.6 million adults older than 50 put more than 50 percent of their income toward housing.
Individuals who spend more than half of their income on housing spend an average of 40 percent less on food and 70 percent less on health care, notes AARP. These individuals may cut back on necessities, such as a healthy diet and medical treatment, to pay for their housing.
AARP concludes that more affordable housing needs to be present for seniors so that they can continue participating in society and spend their retirement years enjoying life, not worrying about entering debt.
Affordable Housing Options for Seniors
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) operates a housing choice voucher program and offers rental subsidies for seniors. HUD reviews three characteristics to determine eligibility:
- Annual gross income
- U.S. citizenship or immigration status
- Qualifications as a senior citizen, a person with a disability, or as a family
According to the HUD website, senior citizens who qualify for affordable housing must have income levels lower than 50 percent of the average of the area. Since housing and income costs vary from place to place across the country (consider Manhattan costs versus Des Moines), qualifications get evaluated on the local level, according to HUD. You may not qualify for affordable housing in one area, but you could be eligible in another.
The team at Life After 55 explained that government-subsidized housing doesn’t necessarily mean seniors are limited to homes in neighborhoods with crime. Seniors have three options from which to choose:
- Retirement communities, which include condos, townhomes, mobile homes, and houses
- Senior apartments that are age-restricted
- Subsidized senior housing, which are standalone units available to low-income seniors
Each one of these options has different levels of care available. A house subsidized by the government, noted Life After 55, can offer some form of independent living, while retirement communities may offer food, nursing care, transportation, and recreational activities. By showing seniors their options, they can make the best housing choice possible for their lifestyles.
How a Director of Affordable Housing Services Can Help Seniors
On a local level, a director of affordable housing services works with seniors in the community to find optimal housing options for their needs. An individual in this role works as a mediator between HUD and senior citizens in that community.
If the federal government creates a new program that can help senior citizens, that program can lead to new housing options or widen the qualifications for the area. A director of affordable housing services can reach out to members of the community who need housing the most and offer ways to help place them in the best living situation possible.
However, if the federal government cuts back on affordable housing or the right resources aren’t available, then a director of affordable housing services can become an advocate for people and for safe and decent housing options.
The Hillsborough County government in Florida recently hired a new affordable housing director and explained this individual’s role in a press release. Bonnie Wise, the county’s chief financial administrator, described the responsibilities of this position:
“(This position) brings great capacity to ensure continued compliance with federal and state grants, to collaborate with social services providers including internal and external agencies addressing homeless services, as well as building critical ties to land use and economic development.”
How a Gerontology Degree Can Help Prepare Students to Assist Seniors in Finding Affordable Housing
Gerontology is a multidisciplinary field. It focuses on physical, mental, and social aspects of aging. Students who have knowledge in these areas can lobby for changes that will benefit the senior community when they have a complete understanding of the needs of older adults.
Students who pursue a master’s degree in gerontology can help seniors personally or through work in government offices and research labs. Pursuing a gerontology degree can help prepare you to handle the responsibilities of roles such as a director of affordable housing services and other leadership positions in the field of gerontology.
According to its mission statement, the purpose of The Gerontological Society of America is to advance the study of aging to promote human welfare. Attorneys, doctors, and lobbyists who are all dedicated to improving senior care can enhance their knowledge with a gerontology degree.
If you aspire to dedicate your career to helping senior citizens, visit the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology website to learn more about the University of Southern California’s Master of Arts in Gerontology and Master of Aging Services Management degree programs. By learning more about the human lifespan and anticipating trends for the future, you can prepare yourself to plan and execute initiatives that can benefit senior citizens for generations for come.