Aging in Place: Implications for Remodeling

Abbe Will

W15-4: The dramatic aging of the U.S. population in coming decades is expected to have important implications for the home remodeling industry. Of the over 25 million households age 65 and over today, the Joint Center estimates that 44 percent have some need for home accessibility features due to disability or difficulty using components of the home, such as kitchen or bathroom facilities, without assistance. And yet, the current housing stock is not especially equipped to meet the accessibility needs of an aging nation, as not even a third of homes have what could be considered basic accessibility features: a no-step entry and bedroom and full bathroom on the entry level. While some aging households will look to move into homes that are better suited to their needs, many others will choose to remain in their current homes and communities and “age in place,” finding out of preference or necessity that they will need to remodel their homes to fit their changing needs. Indeed, older homeowners already account for nearly half of total home improvement spending today, compared to their historical share of 30 percent. And although 45 percent of older homeowners plan to undertake improvement projects with the intent of making their homes easier to live in as they age, surprisingly few owners are focused on home accessibility as part of aging in place comfortably and safely. As the number and share of older households rise sharply over the coming decade, construction of new housing with basic accessibility features is projected to fall considerably short of increased demand in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the country. Fully 40 percent of the net gain in households age 65 and older with accessibility needs in these regions is projected to have unmet demand, suggesting the need for significant retrofit spending on existing homes to narrow this supply-demand gap.