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Health & Medicine

Aging Americans Face Healthcare Issues, Homelessness

— December 20, 2023

A Harvard report sheds light on the nation’s inadequate response to a lack of housing and healthcare for its aging population.

The United States is facing a pressing issue with its aging population, with a growing number of older individuals struggling with homelessness and healthcare desperation. Michael Genaldi’s story illustrates the harsh reality, as his journey to homelessness began with a severe accident, rendering him jobless, homeless, and diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer at the age of 58.

A recent report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies sheds light on the inadequacy of the U.S. in housing and caring for its aging population. The report warns that without sufficient government assistance, many older adults may have to forego essential care or rely on the support of family and friends, potentially leading to homelessness, as seen in Genaldi’s case.

The report reveals that existing federal housing assistance programs are falling short, leaving a significant portion of eligible older renters without adequate support. In 2021, only slightly more than a third of the 5.9 million eligible renters aged 62 and over received federal housing assistance, such as Section 8 or Section 202.

To address the challenges faced by aging Americans, especially baby boomers born after World War II, the report emphasizes the need for creative solutions. Ideas such as shared housing arrangements, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and cohousing communities are suggested to reduce costs and provide alternative housing options.

Aging Americans Face Healthcare Issues, Homelessness
Photo by Hasan Albari from Pexels

Looking ahead, the U.S. anticipates a 45 percent increase in the population over the age of 75 over the next decade, reaching nearly 25 million. Unfortunately, financial struggles are expected for many of these individuals, as highlighted by the report. Rising mortgage debt among older homeowners, increasing housing costs, and challenges in accessing necessary services further compound the issue.

The burden is not evenly distributed, with older people of color and those living alone facing higher rates of cost burdens. The report underscores the urgency of addressing these disparities to ensure equitable access to housing and healthcare services for aging Americans.

The real-life experiences of individuals like Angelita Saldaña in Phoenix underscore the severity of the problem. Saldaña, grappling with homelessness after a failed marriage, emphasizes the inadequacy of her monthly disability check in covering the high rents in the area.

In confronting the complex nexus of aging, homelessness, and healthcare desperation, it becomes imperative to establish comprehensive strategies that not only address immediate needs but also pave the way for sustained solutions. As the U.S. grapples with an impending surge in its elderly population, the inadequacies in existing support systems must be rectified to avert a worsening crisis.

The report advocates for tailored solutions for aging individuals, with considerations for their specific needs, including accessible shelter designs with more space and amenities suited for their age-related conditions. The challenges faced by seniors on the streets, often with mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers, highlight the urgency of comprehensive efforts to address the intersection of aging, homelessness, and healthcare desperation in the United States.


Study says the US is ill-prepared to ensure housing for the growing number of older people

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