ARIZONA NEWS

Study says the US is ill-prepared to ensure housing for the growing number of older people

Nov 30, 2023, 6:30 AM | Updated: 9:32 am

US struggles to provide adequate housing and services...

Karla Finocchio, 55, talks about her homeless days when she lived in her truck on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Phoenix. The United States is ill-prepared to ensure housing and care for the swelling ranks of America's older people. That's the conclusion of a new report being released Thursday by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Michael Genaldi’s road to homelessness began early this year when a car slammed into the rear of his motorcycle, crushed three of his ribs, and left him in a coma for over a month.

The 58-year-old lost his job as a machine operator, then his home, and he was living in his truck when he was diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer. Too young to get Social Security, Genaldi now lives temporarily in a shelter for people 55 and older in Phoenix while he navigates the process of qualifying for disability payments.

As its population ages, the United States is ill-prepared to adequately house and care for the growing number of older people, concludes a new report being released Thursday by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Without enough government help, “many older adults will have to forgo needed care or rely on family and friends for assistance,” warned Jennifer Molinsky, project director of the center’s Housing an Aging Society Program. Many, like Genaldi, will become homeless.

Molinsky said more governmental assistance could better help the upsurge of older Americans who are baby boomers born after World War II.

The report says that in 2021, federal housing assistance like Section 8 or Section 202 — which provides housing with supportive services such as cleaning, cooking and transportation for older people — was only sufficient for a little more than a third of the 5.9 million renters ages 62 and over who were eligible.

Creative ideas are especially needed now to house people with fixed or dwindling incomes and with insufficient savings, the report says. Think house or apartment sharing to cut back on costs rather than living alone, in accessory dwelling units or ADUs known as casitas, granny flats and in-law units. There are also cohousing communities where individual homes — sometimes even tiny homes — are arranged around a building with a communal space such as a dining room.

Over the next decade, the U.S. population over the age of 75 will increase by 45%, growing from 17 million to nearly 25 million. And many of those people are expected to struggle financially. The report notes that in 2021, nearly 11.2 million older adults were “cost burdened,” which means they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Some of the highest cost-burden rates for renters 65 and older were in Sunbelt areas traditionally popular for retirement: Las Vegas; San Diego; Raleigh, North Carolina; Miami and Daytona Beach, Florida.

Like renters, many older homeowners also struggle to keep a roof over their head.

The report says that mortgage debt among older adults is rising, with the median mortgage debt for homeowners 65 to 79 shooting up over 400% from $21,000 in 1989 to $110,000 in 2022 as people increasingly need to access cash for basic needs and care.

Many older adults also find it challenging to obtain the additional services they need as they age, with the costs of long-term care averaging over $100 a day.

The report says the households of older people of color are far more likely to be cost burdened than older white households, especially Black and Latino households. Older people who live alone are also more likely to be cost burdened than married or partnered couples: 47% versus 21% of couples.

In Phoenix, Angelita Saldaña, 56, became homeless after her marriage fell apart. The granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, Saldaña initially lived in her truck with her pet dog Gaspar, but they now live at the 60-bed shelter where Genaldi stays with his pet dog Chico.

Saldaña said her $941 monthly disability check isn’t enough to pay for even a studio apartment in the area, where average rents start at around $1,200. A caseworker is trying to help her find something she can afford.

In the meantime, she has a motel room to herself with a private bathroom.

“Here, I can sleep good,” she said, unlike the months she spent at the state’s largest shelter in downtown Phoenix, which has ten times as many beds.

Lisa Glow, the CEO for Central Arizona Shelter Services, which operates both facilities, said older people do much better in a shelter designed with their needs in mind — including more space, limited stairs and wider doorways for wheelchairs.

Glow spoke of an 82-year-old man with dementia who struggled to sleep on a bunk bed at the downtown shelter before he was transferred. Staff members tracked down his family and got him transferred to a skilling nursing facility for more personalized care.

“The downtown shelter is not a good place for an aging adult with chronic conditions,” said Glow. “We see a lot of people there in their 70s and 80s.”

“I’ve been shocked to see so many seniors on the street,” she added. “People with wheelchairs. People with walkers.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

A man died after a motorcycle crash early Sunday morning in Desert View Village. (MCSO Photo)...

David Veenstra

Motorcyclist dead after crash in Desert View Village, near Cave Creek

A man died after a motorcycle crash early Sunday morning in Desert View Village, near Cave Creek, according to authorities.

19 seconds ago

World's Biggest Bounce House (XL Event Lab photo)...

Damon Allred

World’s Largest Bounce House coming to Phoenix for weekend stop on nationwide tour

The Big Bounce America is bringing its coterie of inflatable attractions to Phoenix this weekend, featuring eight inflatables.

59 minutes ago

Singer Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant performs onstage during day two of the 2021 Pilgrimage Musi...

Damon Allred

Grammy-winning Cage The Elephant announces Phoenix stop during North American tour

Grammy Award-winning rock band Cage The Elephant announced a stop in Phoenix on its upcoming summer tour in conjunction with a new album.

2 hours ago

SkyBridge Arizona is an emerging business park in Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. It, along with othe...

Ron Davis/Phoenix Business Journal

Major aerospace developments near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport move forward

The skyline around Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport has some changes in store, including major aerospace develoments.

2 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally Saturd...

Associated Press

Donald Trump wins Missouri and Idaho caucuses, sweeps Michigan GOP convention

Trump continued his march toward the GOP nomination, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the convention in Michigan.

14 hours ago

Maine man, 79, dies while hiking Pyramid Trail in Sedona...

Damon Allred

Gov. Katie Hobbs announces Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, establishes chief heat officer

Gov. Katie Hobbs announced the state's first Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, creating the country's first state level heat officer.

14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Study says the US is ill-prepared to ensure housing for the growing number of older people