Aging and Disability: Implications for the Housing Industry and Public Policy in the United States

Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 11, 2007

The elderly population of the United States is large and growing rapidly. In 2000 there were 35 million persons age 65+, comprising 12% of the total population. By 2050 this population is projected to exceed 86 million, almost 21% of the total. Since disability rates increase with age, the aging of the population will bring substantial increases in the number of disabled persons and have a significant impact on the demand for housing. In this paper, we collect information on physical disabilities, particularly as they relate to mobility limitations. We analyze trends in disability rates over time and apply projected rates by age and sex to projections of the U.S. population to produce projections of the number of disabled persons. We follow a similar procedure to produce projections of the number of households with at least one disabled resident and develop an estimate of the probability that a newly built single-family detached unit will house at least one disabled resident during its lifetime. We extend the analysis to include the impact of “visitability,” or the ability of a disabled person to visit the homes of friends and relatives without difficulty. We close with a discussion of the implications of the rapidly rising number of disabled persons for the housing industry and for public policy in the United States.

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