Senior citizens need more places to live

AP Photo/, Carmine Galasso

On Sunday Ideas wrote about “age segregation” in America—the fact that from kids to senior citizens, increasingly we spend a lot of our time with people our own age.

Some experts think this creates a host of societal problems, and that we’d be better off with greater age integration. For a variety of reasons that could be hard to achieve, but there’s at least one factor potentially working in the right direction: older Americans—who growing rapidly in number—don’t have good places to live.

That’s the headline from a report out today from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP. Older people have specific housing needs. These include everything from extra-wide doorways to proximity to stores and public transportation. The housing has to be affordable, too, and the researchers find that high housing costs force many older Americans to cut back on other necessities like food and health care.


The researchers conclude that the “existing housing stock is unprepared” to meet these needs, and they present the report as a wake-up call to the public and private sectors. Whether or how anyone answers that call stands to have a big influence on the shape of age segregation in the future. The way we address the housing options available to older people could roll-back age segregation trends, or it could end up reinforcing them.

Kevin Hartnett is a writer in South Carolina. He can be reached at