11 Jun Housing Needs to Keep Up with Longer Health Spans
Older adults are some of the heaviest users of the healthcare system, and at a global level, the 85-and-over population is projected to increase 351% between 2010 and 2050. Not only is there an increased lifespan, but there is an increased health span compared to previous generations; modern medicine and living standards have increased the years that a person can live a healthy, fulfilling life. However, there is an increase in chronic health conditions in older age and the current homes for older adults are not fully meeting the health and mobility needs of these conditions. There is an urgency to meet the housing needs of these older adults, especially in a post-pandemic world where there is more hesitancy to living in an assisted living due to the close quarters. There is a desire among older adults for independence and appropriate housing solutions that meet that desire. By recognizing housing as a key driver of health, there can be investments made inadequate housing for older adults, which would ultimately decrease strain on the healthcare system.
Building with Mission is a Canadian mortgage and housing corporation that is tackling complex housing challenges in Canada. They published a report where they highlighted six key areas in which organizations can work to improve housing options for older adults: be a housing advocate, act as a project lead, provide land/building, support capital raising, provide capacity, and be an ally for community leaders. Although this is a Canadian organization, the principles outlined in the report would benefit the American housing and healthcare infostructure as well.
The common theme of all these suggestions is that they are community oriented. Housing older adults must be a group effort. Organizations can contribute to the key area that they are best situated for. For example, if there is an organization that does housing research, writing a paper and distributing it to their network would be helpful. If an organization has the means to lead a housing project in the community, those leadership skills could charge a programmatic solution for housing. By coming together, different organizations can contribute pieces that can create a solution to housing for older adults. Something else notable about these recommendations is that giving for the collective good can also help organizations down the line; it is not always a donation. For example, partial ownership of a housing facility could accrue in value over time, making it a worth-while investment financially too.
Designing a space for older adults to live is important for promoting over all well-being. There should be a balance of personal and social space, connection to the outside neighborhood/community, safe and economical building strategies, and revitalization of urban centers. Should another emergency happen like the COVID-19 pandemic, the balance of personal and social space and the layout of the facility could decrease feelings of loneliness and physical issues. By having access to the outside community while still having care at a facility, older adults can enjoy themselves and the city can be intergenerational. Smart design and construction can help to build cost effective buildings.
Innovations in housing for older adults must become a priority. Society is changing so that more older adults are living at facilities rather than at home. We want older adults to enjoy their health and be taken care of when they are not at their best. To meet the needs of this population, organizations must work together, and cities must support them, to focus on housing for older adults and carefully design living facilities. Adequate living situations for older adults will ultimately decrease strain on the healthcare system because there will be healthier, happier people.
To read the reports referenced in this blog post by Building with a Mission, follow this link: https://www.buildingwithmission.ca/publications