How an Aging U.S. Population Affects Housing

Unlike animals, human beings build homes that are designed to not only suite their every need but also offer a degree of comfort. That said, human beings’ needs change over time as they grow from crawling babies to grey-haired seniors. For seniors, in particular, a home setting matters a lot as it not only affects their comfort but safety as well. Consequently, as the U.S. population ages, the housing industry is set to change dramatically to meet its customers’ new needs.

An aging U.S. population is expected to have both positive and negative effects on the housing industry. This article will focus on several specific areas that will see substantial changes. But, first, here is an insight at the statistics to give you a clear perspective of the situation at hand.

Truth in Numbers – A Sneak-Peak into U.S.’s Future Population

A significant percentage of the U.S.’s population is already aged as there are 48 million citizens aged 65- years-old and above. And, thanks to a competent healthcare industry, the mortality rate is expected to decline in the coming years, thus leading to even a bigger aged population. In fact, the aged population is expected to grow to a whopping 79 million people by 2035. The households are also expected to change as their occupants age and new family members are welcomed into the world. To start with, it is estimated that about one in three households will be headed by a senior by It is also estimated that many seniors will age in place even though living alone; one-person households for seniors above 80-years-old are expected to total 9.3 million by 2035. Additionally, nursing homes are also expected to increase as there will be greater demand for their services.

Implications for the Housing Industry

The housing industry stands to both gain and lose from the aging U.S. population depending on how well it responds to the changing demands. That said, however, it is important to note that demand will not be negatively affected in any manner; to the contrary, demand for housing is expected to rise steadily over the years as the population expands. Here are several ways in which an aging U.S. population is expected to change the housing industry:

Greater demand for home remodeling services

As mentioned earlier, the elderly need specially designed houses that cater for their special needs. Their setting should cater for factors such as movement, safety, and comfort, among other things. There are three factors to consider in particular. First, houses accommodating the elderly should have zero- step entrances that can support wheel chairs and prevent placing too much strain on those who are fortunate enough to walk. Secondly, these houses need single-floor living plans as staircases are not only difficult to climb but also they pose a safety risk to seniors as they can easily fall and hurt themselves, sometimes fatally. Finally, the doors and hallways should be wide enough to give unhindered access to seniors confined to wheelchairs or using walkers. Other factors such as flooring and lighting also matter, and they also should be taken into consideration.

Taking these factors into account, the housing industry in the U.S. is inadequately equipped to cater for its elderly customers. Research conducted by the Harvard Center for Housing Studies shows that only 3.5% of the houses offer these three basic features. Considering that there will be over 9 million one-person households for seniors by 2035, a lot of modification will be made to cater for the elderly occupants’ needs. In fact, the remodeling niche will not have to wait until then as many households occupied by seniors already fall short of these standards.

Demand for simple and affordable housing

Millennials have been changing the world as a whole, and the real estate industry is no exception. Specifically, the industry has been witnessing a trend whereby there is growing demand for small and simple housing units. Just like Millennials, seniors are expected to boost the demand for small and simple housing units for several reasons. To start with, most of the seniors who will be living alone over the years will have few income streams to cater for their accommodation expenses. As such, simple housing units will be preferable as they will be affordable and easy to maintain. Second, simple housing units will pose less challenges for seniors. For instance, it will be easier to move around without obstacles such as staircases and many rooms, which can be confusing for the elderly.

Smart developers in the real estate industry have acknowledged this growing demand for simple and affordable housing units and began cashing in on the opportunity. However, most of these houses have been targeting Millennials living in urban settings. As such, there is need to build even more similar houses with a focus on the elderly. To this end, plans are underway to build such housing units in the countryside in a village-like design whereby the units are built close to each other and share facilities and amenities to support a thriving society specifically for seniors.

Reduced residential mobility

An aging U.S. population will lead to reduced residential mobility as well as housing turnover. This comes as bad news for the housing industry, which is already experiencing a tight market. As such, the industry’s profitability is expected to lower, but this will be temporary as overall demand is expected to surge in the long-term; the fact that more people are living beyond the age of 65-years-old, coupled with the steady and rising birth rate, means that the overall population will expand substantially over time. As such, there will not only be more seniors by 2035 but also more Millennials looking to move out.

Other Factors to Look Out For

Seniors’ accommodation needs span more than just comfort. To start with, their frail bodies require increased health care, which, in their case, is delivered right to their door steps. As such, the aging U.S. population is also expected to increase the demand for in-home health care and supportive services. Consequently, the housing industry will have to work in conjunction with the healthcare industry to ensure that houses can accommodate specialized health care equipment.

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