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Henry Cisneros and Vin Weber: Home Can Be Where the Help Is

U.S. News & World Report

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Responding to the needs of an aging population will be one of the most complex public policy challenges facing our nation in the 21st century. A successful response will require innovative approaches that bring together the best thinking from a variety of different fields and disciplines. A critical element of any strategy must be more effective use of housing as a platform for the delivery of health care and other services.

Here’s the situation: By 2030, some 73 million people aged 65 or older and nearly 9 million aged 85 or older will be living in the United States, representing a doubling of the number of individuals in both groups since 2000.

The ratio of working age people to those who have retired will fall significantly. Today, one in seven persons is 65 or older; by 2030, that share will grow to one in five. With fewer workers supporting more retirees, government budgets and social service delivery systems will be severely tested.

Surveys show that the overwhelming number of seniors will seek to “age in place” in their existing homes and communities. Understandably, as they age, most Americans want to live close to friends and family and continue to enjoy the personal connections that have enriched their lives.

Yet many of our homes and communities are not suited to make living independently a safe, viable option. Millions of homes lack basic structural features such as no-step entry and extra-wide hallways and doors, while many neighborhoods were not designed with seniors in mind and often lack transportation and other needed services.