The Forgotten Middle

By Lindsay Hutter, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer

New Research Signals Many Baby Boomers Unable to Afford Later Years

A new body of research signals a significant issue about to crest in our country. At a time when more older adults than in the history of the United States will reach age 65 and above, senior housing and care will be financially out of reach for many of them—54 percent of them, to be exact.

Last week, the National Investment Center Center for Senior Housing & Care (NIC) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago released “The Forgotten Middle: Many Middle-Income Seniors will have Insufficient Resources for Housing and Health Care.” The authors presented to an audience of industry executives, policymakers and media organizations in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by HealthAffairs, the event also included two panels of experts who reviewed the research and discussed solutions for the path forward.

My colleague Andy Siegel and I were proud to represent Goodwin House Incorporated (GHI) at the event and applaud NIC and NORC for bringing this ground-breaking research forward. It’s nothing short of an education strategy to bring the capital markets and public sector policy community together to engage in constructive dialogue about this issue. NIC Founder and Strategic Advisor Robert Kramer said it best, “Continuing to ignore this issue is at seniors’ peril and our nation’s peril.”

Here’s a quick summary of key findings that make Kramer’s point:

  • The number of middle-income seniors is projected to nearly double by 2029, from 7.9 million in 2014 to 14.4 million, accounting for 43 percent of the population age 65+
  • A projected 60 percent of this group will have mobility limitations; 67 percent will have three or more chronic conditions; 20 percent will have health care and functional needs; and 54 percent will lack the necessary financial resources to pay for seniors housing
  • The vast majority of homes are not safe for older adults, and a lack of fall prevention and installing accessibility features are not insignificant issues given that one third of older adults fall and suffer some mobility injuries every year

We at GHI commend NIC and NORC for undertaking this research and issuing what is a needed clarion call to the investment and public policy communities to come together with intentional focus on removing the barriers to affordable aging in America. We particularly applaud the view advanced by this research that the senior living sector has been financed as a real estate investment rather than investments in health care or technology innovation. We think this broader view will help our field and our country tend to this “Forgotten Middle” and ensure they have access to affordable housing and care.

NIC’s Robert Kramer speaking at the April 24 release of “The Forgotten Middle” research in Washington, D.C.

One of the panels gave specific focus to the “spirit of incrementalism” evident in many local communities that are changing attitudes about aging and offering more resources to help us all thrive together. Some examples include:

  • State and local tax credits for individuals who modify their homes to be more accessible
  • Lists of trusted, affordable contractors who make homes more accessible
  • Programs like Johns Hopkins’ University’s CAPABLE model, which teams a nurse, an occupational therapist and a handyperson to both address the home environment and use the strengths of the residents themselves to improve safety and independence (CAPABLE = Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders)

For our part, GHI is committed to being part of the solution. Our Board of Trustees and senior management put the Middle Market squarely in our Strategic Plan for deep exploration. And as we explore this important societal need, we’ll continue to lead by our value of sharing our knowledge and expertise with as we all navigate aging together.

As Goodwin House’s Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, Lindsay Hutter leads the strategic efforts to fulfill the mission and expand the ways and places in which Goodwin House Incorporated serves older adults. A resident of Fairfax County, her career spans leadership positions in change management, market innovation, and marketing and communications.  Lindsay holds a B.S. degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University.