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The United States is not prepared to provide housing and care for its surging elderly population, according to a new report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS).

The number of older adults, defined as those at least 65 years old, soared by 34% from 43 million in 2012 to 58 million in 2022. JCHS further projects that households headed by a person 80 or older will more than double between 2021 and 2040.

Older adults will face the twin challenges of securing affordable housing and the services they need as they age, according to the “Housing America’s Older Adults 2023” report.

“Housing and long-term care services are both expensive,” said Jennifer Molinsky, project director of the Housing an Aging Society Program at JCSH. “On the housing side, we know that a third of older adults are paying more than a third of their income for housing, half of those are paying more than 50%.”

In addition, people are more likely to struggle with affordability in their 80s and beyond because their incomes are fixed or declining, making it harder for renters to keep up with rising rents or for homeowners to keep up with rising taxes, utilities, and other costs.

“It’s a wonderful thing that the older population is growing overall and people are living longer than a generation ago, but the supports that people need to stay in the community, stay in their home, are really expensive and hard to secure,” Molinsky said during a webcast discussion. “Simply put, that combined cost of housing and daily care is beyond the means of most people, not just people with very low incomes but also a growing number of people with more moderate and middle incomes.”

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