Why Boomers Need to Plan Now for Senior Housing

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Last month, the Urban Institute published findings on the pending explosion in senior baby boomer households – up from 2010’s 25.8 million – to a whopping estimated 46 million in 2030.  As 2029 marks the year when the last of the baby boomers reach age 65, it’s not surprising that more than 20% of the U.S. population will be over 65 at that time. 

Where will the seniors of 2030 live?

Nursing Homes & Residential Care

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that, as of 2013, the U.S. has 1.7 million licensed nursing home beds and 851,400 licensed beds in residential care communities.  As if the lack of beds to cover the growth of our elder population isn’t scary enough, a 2015 Cost of Care Survey indicates that the median annual rate for a private nursing home room in the Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue area is $114,975, with a one-bedroom/single occupancy assisted living unit coming in at $60,000 per year. 

Government Assisted Senior Housing

Besides nursing homes and residential care communities, there are government-assisted options for senior housing but eligibility requirements vary by locale, include income restrictions, and availability may be limited.  On the Seattle Senior Housing Program’s website, the wait for housing “depends on the number of approved applicants ahead of you on the waiting lists for the buildings you have chosen. Your wait may be as short as two weeks or as long as several years.”

Handicapped Accessible Homes

Purchasing a handicapped accessible home seems like a reasonable alternative.  However, after reviewing current listings on Redfin, Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia, there are shockingly few available – many of which are priced well above the median home cost for the Seattle area.

For many baby boomers, the least costly option for senior housing is to modify an existing residence to be handicapped accessible.  The Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare.gov website has great information on what modifications to consider, as well as possible resources to offset the cost of modifications. 

Designing for Accessibility and Style

While planning for your twilight years may not be your idea of fun, the good news is that open floor plans are well-suited to wheelchair accessibility, regardless of whether they become a necessity.  Even homes without open floor plans can often be modified to be accessible.  Wider door frames (like the one in the Mother-in-Law unit kitchen pictured, right), shower walls strengthened for future grab bars, and swapping bathtubs with stylish curbless showers are all unobtrusive accessibility modifications that can be put in place now.

Additionally, more and more handicapped accessible fixtures and home accessories are being designed without the “institutional” look of years past.  Stylish bathroom accessories and grab bars are now available in various styles and finishes.  Wall-mounted bathroom vanities with knee space below are modern and appealing.  Kitchen cabinets can be outfitted with features that make them wheelchair accessible, too.  But – thankfully – the list doesn’t just stop there.

Getting Started

Remodeling will become more and more popular as the last of the boomers reach retirement age, keeping remodeling companies busy.  If you or your loved ones will be among those reaching retirement age over the next fifteen years, know what your options are.  And when you’re ready to make your home accessible AND beautiful, get in touch.

More Photos of the Mother-in-Law Unit 

Additional Senior Housing Resources:

Eldercare.gov Government Assisted Housing Factsheet


Seattle Housing Authority - Seattle Senior Housing Program FAQs


Additional Data Resources:

U.S. Census Data: The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nursing Home Statistics


Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Report - Washington State


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