“Public policy has failed to keep pace with America’s changing demographics,” saidHenry Cisneros, former HUD secretary and task force co-chair. “Without a comprehensive national approach to integrating health care and housing, far too many seniors will face undue health, home, and financial stresses during their most vulnerable years.”
The report, Healthy Aging Begins at Home, was developed over the past year by BPC’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force and an expert advisory council. The report’s recommendations focus on four key areas: 1) Building affordable housing for seniors; 2) Making homes and communities age-friendly; 3) Integrating health care and supportive services with housing; and 4) Promoting widespread adoption of health technologies to support successful aging.
The acute shortage of affordable homes for seniors is a formidable challenge. To increase the supply, the task force proposes significantly expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Since the program was established 30 years ago, it has encouraged $100 billion in private investment in affordable rental housing. BPC also proposes a new federal program for senior supportive housing that uses “project-based” rental assistance and LIHTC to finance new construction and attract funding from health care programs.
“Affordable housing is the glue that holds everything together,” said Mel Martinez, former senator and HUD secretary, also a co-chair of the task force. “Without access to affordable housing and the stability it provides, it becomes increasingly difficult to provide home and community based supportive services that can enable successful aging.”
Most seniors say they want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. Yet most homes and communities lack the structural features and support services that can make independent living a safe and realistic option. Only 3.8 percent of housing units in the United States are suitable for individuals with moderate mobility difficulties. Adding to this, household finances comprise yet another hurdle. Over the next 20 years, nearly 40 percent of those over 62 will have financial assets of $25,000 or less; 20 percent of those 62 and older will have $5,000 or less.
“These statistics present a stark reality of what the future holds for millions of seniors,” said Vin Weber, former representative and task force co-chair. “Seniors’ inadequate savings, their long-term care needs, and the costs of home modifications, call for new strategies to address the home and health needs of individuals as they age.”
To enable seniors to age in place, the task force recommends establishing a new Modification Assistance Initiative under the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that existing federal resources for home assessments and modifications are better coordinated and utilized. BPC also encourages cities and states to establish and expand home-modification programs for low-income seniors through tax credits, grants, and forgivable loans.
The task force also issued a number of recommendations to directly improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs through a focus on the home-setting. They propose an initiative to coordinate care for seniors living in publicly assisted housing and scaling of an existing demonstration project that coordinates care at home for frail seniors. In addition, the task force strongly recommends that Medicare and other federal programs make reducing falls among seniors a top priority. Each year, one in three older adults fall, resulting in about $34 billion in annual health care costs. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults, and most falls occur at home.
“Our report is a call to action to the health care community, including hospitals, health care professionals, and public and private insurers, said Allyson Schwartz, former representative and task force co-chair. “Health care leaders must work to accelerate the integration of health care and housing. The well-being and safety of millions of Americans are at stake.”
The task force also strongly believes that older adults and their caregivers can benefit from technologies like telehealth, remote patient monitoring services, and fall monitoring systems. Yet a number of barriers continue to prevent increased acceptance and adoption of these strategies. BPC proposes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the states encourage greater reimbursement of telehealth and technologies proven to reduce health care costs.
The task force believes that implementing the full suite of these recommendations can improve the health of America’s seniors and significantly enhance their quality of life.
Read the full report
Read the executive summary
View the infographic
View the website by clicking here!
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