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Rural Health Information Hub


Most older adults prefer to stay in their homes; however, many factors, including affordability and accessibility can make it more difficult for older adults to age in their home successfully.

Housing is the largest item in most household budgets, and many older adults struggle with housing costs. A 2014 study reported that a third of adults over 50 years old — including 37% of those over 80 years old — pay more than 30% of income for housing.

In addition to affordability, the location of housing is another important consideration. Living near family and friends, transportation, shopping, recreation, and other services can help older adults to remain actively engaged in their communities.

The vast majority of housing units in the U.S. — more than 95% — are not fully accessible for people with mobility impairments, and renting physically accessible housing or modifying existing housing may be cost-prohibitive. Houses in rural areas are more likely to be of poorer quality, making it even more important to focus on housing safety for older adults in rural areas. Addressing housing issues for aging in place requires a range of options that accommodate a variety of needs and preferences as individuals age.

Common issues that mobility-challenged older adults experience within their homes include:

  • Difficulty getting in and out of their house
  • Narrow doorways and hallways
  • Stairs
  • Kitchens that do not have space for a wheelchair or cabinets that are out of reach
  • Laundry systems that are difficult to use
  • Bathrooms with shower and toilet access barriers

Solutions for these issues include:

  • Installing ramps
  • Grab bars
  • Curbless showers
  • Nonslip flooring
  • Lower cabinets
  • Side-by-side washer and dryer units
  • Wider hallways and doors

Resources to Learn More

Healthy Aging Begins at Home
Identifies the need for a larger supply of homes affordable to low-income seniors, the importance of transforming homes and communities so seniors can age with options, and proposes recommendations for a call to action.
Organization(s): Bipartisan Policy Center: Senior Health and Housing Task Force
Date: 5/2016

Multi-Family Housing Direct Loans
Overview of the Section 515 USDA loan program that provides financial assistance for affordable rental housing in rural areas, with a specific focus on older adults and people with disabilities.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Agriculture

Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants
Overview of the Section 504 USDA loan program helping low-income homeowners to modify their homes and helping older adults to improve the safety of their home environment.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Agriculture