New Report Provides Recommendations on Healthy and Affordable Aging

In a new report titled “Healthy Aging Begins at Home,” The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) identifies four ways to address the impending wave of seniors with inadequate retirement savings. The BPC focuses on four categories: the need for more affordable supply, improving aging at home options, integrating health care and supportive services with housing and using emerging technologies to support successful aging.

The report cites what is an increasingly common statistic for those in the seniors housing and care industry—by 2030, the population of seniors is expected to reach 74 million, nearly doubling in two decades. The fiscal outlook for that group is dire. Nearly 30% of households aged 55 and older have no retirement account or pension. For the 70% of households that do have some savings, the median total account balance is $104,000, not nearly enough for multiple decades of housing and care. When looked at per capita, the numbers are even worse—median retirement assets for individuals aged 62 to 69 was only $32,000 in 2015. Those in the 75th percentile have only around $130,000, still far from sufficient.

More Affordable Supply

The need is clear. The actions required to do something about it are varied and far-reaching. When discussing the first category, the need for more affordable supply, the BPC recommends prioritizing the prevention and ending of senior homelessness, advocating for the expansion of the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program and adequate funding of all federal rental-assistance programs. Further, they recommend the creation of a new senior-supportive housing program that uses project-based rental assistance and LIHTCs to fund new construction and attract funding for services from health care programs. The authors note, however, that federal policies will not be enough. The private and nonprofit sectors must be actively engaged.

Aging with Options

A majority of seniors (88%) in a 2014 AARP survey indicated they prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible. In order to do so, however, long-term services and supports, as well as home modifications, will likely be necessary. Those expenses, on top of the typical daily living costs, will be too much for many seniors. To improve the ability of seniors to age in place, the authors recommend a series of initiatives centered on increased coordination across government agencies and greater transparency about existing programs that can benefit senior households.

Housing with Health Care

New models that deliver care and services to seniors in their homes have a great deal of potential to not only improve outcomes but also significantly reduce health care costs. The BPC recommends several federal policies that can improve the integration of care and housing, notably calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to create a program that coordinates care for Medicare beneficiaries in publicly-assisted housing. In addition, the report recommends hospitals incorporate questions about housing into their discharge process.

Emerging Technologies

Citing the trends of telehealth and remote patient monitoring services as examples, the BPC report contends that seniors can benefit greatly from technological advancements. The report identifies several ways that the federal and state governments can work with the private sector to increase the use of important health care technologies, such as encouraging greater reimbursement of telehealth and other technologies and making broadband available in as many households as possible.

Overall, the authors conclude that housing is the key component in addressing the challenges the senior care industry will face in the coming decades. Quality, affordable housing is the “glue that holds everything together,” and efforts to preserve and increase supply should be at the forefront.

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