Caring for Our Aging Homeless Population

Pamela Ralston

As the average age of homeless individuals is increasing, strategies that meet the service and housing needs for those 65 and over are progressively highlighted as gaps within the available housing resources in communities across the country. Considering that this age group will represent between 20-25% of the population within the next 15 years, it is critical that we creatively jumpstart ideas on housing solutions for this subpopulation.

Currently, the average lifespan for Americans is nearly 80 years of age, thanks to improved medical treatment; thus, an increased number are living longer. This also means that more and more older adults are outliving their savings and they can no longer afford to maintain their cost of living. In contrast to prior generations, an increased number of elderly still pay a mortgage, and they are faced with high property taxes, both unaffordable on a fixed income.

Such circumstances have created scenarios where many are either losing their homes or are at risk for such, causing them to enter homelessness. But by working collaboratively on solutions to avoid these situations, we can find ways that assist individuals to continue to live independently, longer. Such solutions may include congregate housing, partnering younger adults with older roommates to share the houses they still own, permanent housing with targeted services for the elderly and an increased number of housing vouchers focused toward the elderly. With options such as these, more older adults will be able to live independent, high quality lives far past the age of 65!

For related resources:

Leading Age
Mother Jones: Respite Care, Health and Aging
Rethinking: The Care Needs of Older Homeless People