Housing Resources, Services Will Be Challenged by Aging Population, Study Finds

Image courtesy of freeimages

Image courtesy of freeimages

Current housing inventory mismatched to seniors’ growing needs

New Hampshire’s senior population will almost double by 2025, and without changes our housing stock and social services may not effectively meet seniors’ needs, a study finds.

Housing Needs in New Hampshire, a three-part study commissioned by New Hampshire Housing and performed by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and Applied Economic Research, examines factors that will influence New Hampshire’s future housing needs. The second part of the study, titled “Senior Housing Perspectives,” specifically investigates the needs and preference of the state’s rapidly growing senior population.

New Hampshire has the fourth oldest median age population in the country, and seniors will occupy one in three housing units by 2025. The study finds that the traditional idea of seniors downsizing to smaller homes after retirement is not holding true. A national study by AARP found that 86 percent of seniors would prefer to stay in their current residence as long as possible, and the same amount expressed a preference to stay in their communities.

However, seniors will face challenges to aging in place. With 76 percent of the state’s seniors living in rural and suburban settings, services like public transportation and accessible resource centers that make aging in place possible aren’t readily available. Their homes also aren’t conducive to aging in place, since most of New Hampshire’s housing stock consists of older houses with multiple levels, stairs, and narrow doorways. In addition, 42 percent of the state’s seniors age 65 and older have at least one significant disability, and at least 15 percent say they are having difficulty living independently due to disability issues. While social service agencies are attempting to be creative in meeting the needs of our seniors, their resources remain scarce.

Housing Needs in New Hampshire also found that seniors face financial challenges when it comes to their housing. Over half of the state’s senior renters and owners are currently paying 30 percent or more of their income on mortgages or rent, taxes, utilities, and other housing costs. Senior renters face an even greater challenge—their median income is only a quarter of the state’s average, and almost 20 percent of them live below the poverty line. However, the majority of seniors in New Hampshire are homeowners. In 2010, 77 percent of the state’s households age 65 and older owned a home. The median income of the state’s senior homeowners is about half of the state’s average. While many of them lost equity during the Great Recession, their homes still are viable assets.

Eventually, New Hampshire will experience a significant increase in the demand for both assisted living and nursing home beds. This increased demand is likely to happen when a significant increase in the over 85 population occurs. The high costs of these facilities will curb demand for nursing homes and assisted living somewhat, but they can also consume the net worth of many of the state’s seniors.

“Housing Needs in New Hampshire shows New Hampshire is experiencing slower growth, and as a result, we will have shifting housing needs over the next decade,” said Dean Christon, Executive Director of New Hampshire Housing. “Using this data and information, New Hampshire Housing and other public and private organizations can better establish priorities to support an aging population.”

The third portion of Housing Needs in New Hampshire, which assesses the current housing market and forecasts housing production needs for the next ten years, will be released in the coming week. The first portion, which examines trends in housing preferences, was released last week, and a summary can be found here: http://www.nhhfa.org/housing-data-needs.cfm. For more information about the study, visit http://www.nhhfa.org.

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