June was Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and we’d like to continue in the spirit of standing up for our seniors by calling for safe and affordable senior and assisted living community solutions. Between the impact of inflation and rising assisted living facility costs, finding affordable housing and personal care options for our elderly population is an increasingly challenging task for seniors and their families.
Everyone deserves access to safe living arrangements that support their well-being and dignity at every phase of life. Wonderful housing options exist for older adults, however they are often not accessible to those older adults who are living on a low income. Affordable housing for older adults is a pressing issue that needs immediate attention.
To highlight the need for change, we’re investigating the heavy burden of assisted living costs for older adults. We’ll look at the impact of the 2023 Cost of Living Adjustment, factors driving cost increases in skilled nursing care, and recommendations for addressing the issue of affordable housing options for seniors. Additionally, we will explore urban development and alternative senior living options and their potential to provide safe and affordable environments for our elderly population.
The Burden of Assisted Living Costs
The burden of inflation is felt by individuals across various aspects of life. However, seniors, who rely on a fixed income without the capacity to increase their earnings, experience the impact of rising costs in an especially challenging way.
Assisted living facilities, memory care, and recreational services for seniors have all seen significant cost increases in recent years. According to senior housing statistics and data compiled by Genworth Financial, the average cost of an assisted living facility per person in America was approximately $4,500 per person per month in 2020(1). Given that 1 in 3 seniors are low-income or very low-income(2), these high costs place a significant financial strain on seniors and their families, making it increasingly difficult for them to secure affordable housing options.
The 2023 Cost of Living Adjustment
The Social Security Administration conducts an annual review to determine the cost of living adjustment- or COLA- for social security recipients. The COLA adjustment aims to ensure that older adults and individuals living with disabilities receive adequate health care coverage and can afford basic personal care services, ultimately improving their quality of health and life.
In 2023, social security recipients received an 8.7% increase in their social security checks, the largest increase in history.
While this adjustment was intended to provide relief, it fell short of providing substantial tangible benefits to most senior citizens The rising cost of daily living expenses, including the average monthly cost of assisted living (or even affordable apartments), continues to create financial pressure for low-income seniors relying on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
Factors Driving Cost Increases
Several factors have contributed to the rising cost of housing options for older adults. It is important to understand these factors to develop effective solutions for addressing the challenge of affordabe housing for seniors. The following factors contribute to the current lack of low-income housing:
Increased Demand for Affordable Senior Housing
The number of individuals over the age of 65 grew by 34.2% from 2010-2020, according to census data(3), leading to increased demand for senior housing. Seniors continue to be the largest growing sector of our population, so the increased need for low-income housing is unlikely to slow.
Rising Costs of Operating Assisted Living Facilities
The costs of operating assisted living facilities is on the rise, just as it is across industries. From maintenance, staffing, and healthcare services provided to residents, the cost of operations have significantly increased. These increased costs are often passed on to the customers, who happen to be low-income or very low-income seniors, making it harder for them to afford these facilities.
Inaccessible Healthcare Services
Quality, affordable health care services are a struggle across the board. Our country continues to face a healthcare crisis in a post-pandemic environment. Covid wrecked havoc on our healthcare system, affecting everything from home healthcare, emergency transportation assistance, and social engagement and social activities in every hospital and senior living community in our country. These services are crucial for seniors’ well-being, but they continue to be inaccessible in many communities.
Confusing Senior Living Community Options
Senior living communities, independent living, assisted living, and nursing homes all provide varying levels of care and support. Understanding the options available and their associated costs is essential to make an appropriate decision for an older adults long term living decisions.
Impact of Housing Costs on Seniors
The rising cost of senior housing has significant implications for older adults. Many people are being forced to make challenging decisions about their living arrangements. Increasingly, people are opting to move in with family members, while others downsize to smaller homes.
Independent living communities have also become a popular home sharing choice for older adults, as they often offer a more affordable cost of living compared to assisted living or nursing homes. However, these alternatives may not always provide the level of full healthcare services and support that are often required, creating a gap in accessible healthcare with affordable senior living options.
Recommendations for Addressing the Issue
Addressing the rising cost of affordable senior housing that requires a multi-faceted approach. Next, we’ll explore some potential solutions worth advocating for.
Increase Government Funding for Affordable Housing
The federal government can allocate more funding to senior housing programs, reducing housing costs and making it more affordable for seniors. By investing in affordable housing initiatives, policymakers can help alleviate the financial burden of subsidized housing that is faced by seniors residents and their families.
Embracing Multi-generational Living as a Society
Cultural and societal norms run deep in our decision-making processes, often unbeknownst to us. One example is that of multigenerational housing. Fortunately, we are bucking that trend and becoming more welcoming of living with, and caring for, our older family members. The number of multigenerational families in America has quadrupled since the 1970’s, with finances being the most common reason(4). Living with family members isn’t always an option, but when it is possible it can be mutually beneficial both to the finances and overall wellbeing of the household.
Offer Tax Breaks and Supportive Services
While plenty of government programs exist to support many groups of people, additional tax breaks for SSI and SSDI recipients can go a long way for a struggling population. Perhaps a reduction of property taxes or supportive services to locate affordable apartment units. Any government programs that contribute to making housing for older adults more affordable can allow them to allocate their limited income resources toward other essential needs.
As the cost of living continues to rise, National Legal Center will continue to call for affordable senior living solutions. Advocating for efforts like expanding government and community-based support services can create affordable housing. Exploring alternative living arrangement options can also contribute to addressing the affordability challenges faced by seniors. Together, we can ensure that our seniors have access to safe and affordable living arrangements that promote their well-being and dignity.
(1) Genworth Financial.Cost of Care Survey. Retrieved from https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html on 6/30/2023
(2) National Council on Aging. Retrieved from https://ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-economic-security-for-seniors on 6/30/2023
(3) Census.gov Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2020/65-older-population-grows.html on 6/30/2023
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