The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) recently released its report, Housing America’s Older Adults-Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population and along with it, raised awareness of the lack of affordable housing currently available for this growing population.

According to the report, America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth, but the country is not prepared to meet the housing needs of this aging group. The number of adults in the U.S. aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 132 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000.

Households spending more than half their income on housing spend over 40% less on food than those living in housing they can afford. Approximately 10% of the older population lives below poverty level, and only three out of ten eligible seniors receive SNAP benefits. Severely cost-burdened households aged 50-64 spend 70% less on health care than those living in housing they can afford. Those aged 50-64 who spend more than half their income on housing spend over 70% less on retirement savings. And 61% of older adults limit their driving to certain hours of the day, and 21% say they frequently miss out on activities because of these driving limitations.

According to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, South Carolina ranks 17th in the nation for the highest percentage of residents above the age of 60, and our state’s older population is expected to double by 2030 to reach nearly 1.5 million. The 85 to 94 age group is experiencing the fastest growth, 30 percent, while the 95+ age group increased 26 percent. At the same time, South Carolina nursing homes operate at nearly full capacity, making home service an expensive and often times, unrealistic option for most.

As South Carolina’s older population continues to grow, we as a community must engage in a collaborative effort to increase the stock of housing that is affordable, physically accessible, well-located, and coordinated with supports and services. The connectedness of these communities with affordable housing at their core are particularly important to the older population who often times have physical or financial barriers to receiving assistance. This is especially important to those who plan to age in place, which represents about 70% of current older homeowners.

Affordability, availability and accessibility are concepts that must be part of our discussions when planning to meet the housing needs of our older population. Plans that need to begin today in order to be prepared for tomorrow.