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Older Adults Increasingly Live in Low-Density Suburbs and Rural Communities

Older man staring off into the distance

A report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies finds that households headed by adults age 50 and over are increasingly located in low-density areas. Half of the population growth of adults age 65 or older since 2000 has occurred in lower-density metro areas. In more rural areas, an increase in the percentage of older residents has been driven by the aging of the existing population. Over 10 percent of rural communities are majority older adult, as compared to only 4 percent of the densest urban communities.

The report notes that older adults living in spread-out and rural areas could have difficulty accessing services and social connections due to limited transportation options and urges planners and policymakers to “consider the significant challenges inherent in servicing a sprawling population with unique needs.” The NC Housing Finance Agency works to meet the needs of seniors in rural communities through the financing of affordable apartment homes for senior renters and urgent repairs for elderly homeowners. The Urgent Repair Program, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, funds emergency home repairs for homeowners with low incomes and special needs, including older adults and people with disabilities. In addition to addressing substandard housing conditions for these homeowners, the program can strengthen social connections by increasing home visitability and can even save public health care dollars—as much as $19 for every $1 invested in home repair—by helping owners age in place rather than moving into costly institutional care.