The US is Not Prepared to House Growing Number of Seniors, Study Shows

Elder Law | Feb 1, 2024 | Emily A. Martin

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies recently released a study showing that the US is not ready to adequately house and care for the growing number of older Americans. Without enough government assistance, many older adults may find themselves foregoing care or relying on loved ones for assistance.

In 2021, federal housing assistance like Section 8 or Section 202, which provides housing with supportive services like cleaning, cooking, and transportation for elderly people, was only sufficient for a little more than a third of people ages 62 and over who are eligible. This problem will only grow as, over the next decade, the population of Americans over age 75 is expected to increase by 45%. In 2021, more than 11 million older adults were considered “cost burdened,” meaning they spent more than 30% of their income on housing. This cost burden became even higher for seniors living in popular retirement areas such as Miami, Florida and San Diego, California.

The report also released alarming statistics about mortgage debt. The median mortgage debt for homeowners over 65 has risen over 400% since 1989 as seniors need to access more and more cash for basic needs and medical care.

Seeing this study and many others that have been released recently, our clients often ask us what can be done to prevent them from housing insecurity as they age. Below are some important steps that all seniors (or those approaching their golden years) should take to ensure their financial stability:

Have a plan in place.

Many people know who is going to get their assets after they pass away, but far fewer people take the time to think about who would handle their affairs in the event that they become disabled or incapacitated. It is important to have a financial power of attorney in place in which you name someone who can pay your bills, manage your finances, and make other important decisions if you develop dementia or have an accident and cannot make these decisions on your own. Failing to do so can result in costly, public court proceedings that will delay your care and drain your finances.

Review your assets and options.

There are many ways to pay for long-term care costs and housing costs, but most people do not know what the cost of long-term care actually is. It is important to review the cost of care in your area and what options are available to you. Have a tentative plan in place in the event that you become ill or need care. Discuss the plan with your family.

If the potential for long-term care is years in the future, it is important to meet with an elder law attorney to determine whether you should engage in asset protection planning to preserve your house and other assets should the need for care arise later on.

Confirm which benefits are available to you.

Many people are unaware of what benefits are available to them. For example, many veterans do not know that they could potentially qualify for a tax-free pension if they are receiving in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care. Still others may not realize that their children or loved ones can be compensated for providing care for them. Additionally, there are many myths and misconceptions about Medicaid eligibility and which assets can be preserved before qualifying for Medicaid. It is extremely important to consult with an elder law attorney experienced in these areas to make sure that you are aware of what can be done to protect your assets when the time comes, including preserving your home or other housing arrangements.

In order to make sure that you are not one of the millions of cost burdened older adults in the future, it is essential to plan for your future now, while you still can.

Emily A. Martin

Attorney, Shareholder
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
[email protected]

Emily A. Martin is a Shareholder of Hook Law practicing in the areas of elder law, estate and trust administration, estate planning, asset protection planning, litigation and dispute resolution, guardianship and conservatorship, long-term care planning, special needs planning and financial planning. To date, Ms. Martin has overseen over 100 guardianship and conservatorship matters. In addition to being admitted to the Virginia State Bar and North Carolina State Bar, she is licensed to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Martin is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and Regent University School of Law. Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Emily worked as an estate planning and elder law attorney in Virginia Beach for several years.

Practice Areas

  • Elder Law
  • Estate & Trust Administration
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection Planning
  • Guardianship & Conservatorship
  • Long-Term Care Planning
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Financial Planning
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