Harvard University's Joint Center of Housing Studies

More than half of U.S. households are headed by an individual over the age of 50, according to the Housing America's Older Adults 2018 report released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). The report suggests that living arrangements, financial resources, and functional abilities of those households will pose serious challenges in the near future.

According to the report, there were 65 million households headed by individuals over the age of 50 when data was most recently collected in 2016, an increase of 5.5 million households from 2011. The report finds that the number of baby boomer household heads, born between 1946 and 1964, increased 26% from 2011-2016. The report projects that demand for affordable, accessible housing will only increase when the baby boomer generation turns 80.

This trend towards an increasing majority of elderly individuals in homes brings a greater burden on accessible housing. The report found that in 2016, 26% of households with heads over the age of 50 included a member with vision, hearing, self-care, mobility, or independent living difficulty. Difficulty climbing stairs was the most common impairment, impacting 17% of such households.

Currently, though, a majority of U.S. houses are not equipped to accommodate individuals with mobility issues, with only 3.5% of homes having no-step entry and extra-wide halls and doors. The number of homes that are wheelchair accessible, with lever-style handles on doors or faucets, is even smaller.

The report highlights that many of the aging households are investing in home improvement projects. Eleven percent of homeowners 65 or over indicated they had spent on home improvement related to accessibility in the past year. As it currently stands, 55 and older households already account for more than half of home improvement spending. The JCHS projects this cohort will drive more than three-quarters of the growth in the home improvement market in the period through 2025.

The Housing America's Older Adults 2018 report supplements the JCHS's annual State of the Nation's Housing report.