older woman using walker bring helped by aide
Photo: Hispanolistic/Getty Images

Conventional wisdom that care at home is less costly than assisted living is not necessarily true anymore, according to a recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and supported with funding from the National Investment Center for Senior Housing & Care.

The first of the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) turned 80 this year, and that means that some changes are coming for senior living and care. A separate study from NIC and NORC at the University of Chicago, the “Forgotten Middle,” found that the population of Americans aged 75 or more years will reach 33.5 million people by 2029.

Key takeaways from the NIC/Harvard report released earlier this month:

  • In some markets, assisted living can be less expensive than living in a home in the greater community.
  • Most homes don’t meet requirements for aging in place.
  • Affordable options are needed.
  • And yet, “the aging demographic will necessitate a multitude of housing and care alternatives.”

“While this study has important implications for the cost of in-home care compared to assisted living, the reality is that the aging demographic will necessitate a multitude of housing and care alternatives. The middle-market older adult cohort is severely underserved,” NIC Head of Research and Analytics Lisa McCracken wrote in a blog post

“Older adults, whose incomes are often fixed or declining, increasingly face the twin challenges of securing affordable housing and the services they need to remain in the home of their choice,” the researchers noted in a press release issued in conjunction with the report. “When [long-term care] services are added to housing costs, only 14% of single people 75 and over can afford a daily visit from a paid caregiver, and just 13% can afford to move to assisted living.”

According to the study, approximately 60% of the members of the middle- income market are expected to have mobility limitations, approximately 20% will have chronic and/or functional limitations and 8% will have some form of cognitive impairment.

“There is going to be a significant need for housing that can offer access to services and care in an affordable manner,” McCracken said.

“This report can help providers, policymakers and other stakeholders better appreciate that continuing to live at home or pursuing many congregate residential care options are not financially within the reach of many,” she added.