Older Americans could become their children’s ‘biggest expense’ in coming years, says aging advocate

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The seniors who are often the parents of Generation X and Generation Y (millennials) could become a pronounced expense for their kids in the coming years, but adult children also want to see their parents successfully age in place.

This is according to a commentary from Sarita Mohanty, president and CEO of elder financial advocacy organization The SCAN Foundation in a commentary published by Fortune.

There will be 16 million “middle-income” seniors in the U.S. by 2033, Mohanty said, citing a 2022 study from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.

“As NORC’s research summary explains: ‘Many will struggle to pay for the health, personal care, and housing services they need. […] Even with home equity, nearly 40% will not be able to afford assisted living,’” she cited.

These kinds of expenses have only become more burdensome over time, Mohanty said.

“In 2002, adults over 65 spent $48,000 (adjusted for inflation) a year on average, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” she wrote. “Today, the average is $58,000, a more than 20% increase. The average rent and medical costs for those in assisted living currently stand at $65,000 a year.”

The far and away preference for both U.S. seniors and their children is for the seniors to age in place in their own homes, Mohanty said. Citing a survey from Today’s Homeowner, 89% of Americans at or over the age of 55 want to remain in their homes.

But a late 2023 survey by CNBC found that nearly 60% of Americans feel they are not on track to retire comfortably, Mohanty pointed out, and that lack of assurance in their own retirement security means the younger generations are often unprepared to assume any support position for their parents.

“Something has to give,” she said. “If you’re in the sandwich generation – Gen X and older millennials – and want to share in the responsibility for their parents’ retirement, you should begin by thinking of your parents’ retirement plans in the context of your own.”

In December, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a $40 million notice of funding opportunity to connect seniors in affordable housing with resources that could help them age in place.

The reverse mortgage industry often describes its product as a vehicle that can help older Americans remain in their homes since a core requirement of any reverse mortgage is for the borrower to remain in the property as their primary residence.

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