Addressing Housing Challenges Across the U.S.

The home is central to individual and community well-being and should support our lives both today and into the future. While the majority of Americans want to live independently in their homes as they age, we expect that by 2030, our nation will face a severe shortage in accessible and affordable housing to meet the needs of the 1 in 5 Americans who will be over the age of 65 in our country.

In our work to address housing for older adults and their families, AARP and AARP Foundation created the Future of Housing Initiative. We are developing strategies to address the senior housing crisis and make all of our communities affordable and welcoming for people regardless of age, background, circumstance, or physical ability.

Explore below to learn more about housing issues and innovative housing solutions.


Explore the Housing Issues

Memphis, Tennessee Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Redmond, Oregon Camden, New Jersey Tallahassee, Florida Phoenix, Arizona Austin, Texas Denver, Colorado Oakland, California Washington, D.C.

Old & Young Alike – Trapped by High Housing Costs



Donna is a single mother who owns her home in High Bridge, New Jersey. Rose is a young professional renting an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. While in different communities and at stages of life, these women are connected by a common problem affecting individuals of every age: unaffordable housing.



The cost for Donna to remain in the home she bought with her late husband continues to grow each year, but housing alternatives in her area are just as costly. For Rose, rent prices force her to live paycheck to paycheck, limiting opportunities for taking advantage of amenities or saving for the future.



AARP and Housing

Re-Defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow Design Challenge

AARP and AARP Foundation – along with Home Matters, Wells Fargo, The Home Depot Foundation, and other partners – held the Re-Defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow Design Challenge to encourage architects and designers to create new standards in housing design so people can age in their own home.

Winning designs were incorporated into an existing home in Memphis, TN. The home includes universal design and visitable features that make the space suitable for people of all ages.

The design challenge also yielded a resource about accessible housing, the Home Today, Home Tomorrow Universal Design Toolkit, for those interested in incorporating universal design features into their own homes. While not all-inclusive of every universal design feature or practice, the Toolkit represents the most interesting features submitted as part of the competition.

The Design Challenge and the subsequent Toolkit were driven by the concept of universal design. As applied to housing, universal design means including features that are integrated into the overall design of a home that make it suitable for anyone regardless of their level of mobility.

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Yellow home

Make Your Home Comfortable, Safe, and a Great Fit

The Design Challenge Toolkit provides many options for larger, structural changes to make a home more livable. However, smaller, less-expensive changes – such as fixtures, handles, and lighting – can also make a significant difference. The AARP HomeFit Guide helps people stay in the homes they love by turning where they live into a "lifelong home," suitable for themselves and anyone in their household.

Download Download the full HomeFit Guide

Download Download the No-Cost, Low-Cost Ideas Pamphlet

Principle 1 : Equitable Use.

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Principle 2 : Flexibility in Use.

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Principle 3 : Simple and Intuitive.

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Principle 4 : Perceptible Information.

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Principle 5 : Tolerance for Error.

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Principle 6 : Low Physical Effort.

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Principle 7 : Size and Space for Approach and Use.

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Source: NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Community Conversations: Making Row Houses in Philadelphia More Accessible

AARP collaborated with Ujima Community Transformation Partners, LLC, several local organizations and community members in Philadelphia, PA, to raise awareness about the need to expand accessible housing to support people who want to remain in their homes and communities as they age. Row homes are typical residences found in many urban centers like Philadelphia. Although located in many vibrant neighborhoods with access to services, amenities and social connections, row house design features like steep steps, narrow doors, and multiple levels can present challenges for people with limited mobility.

Currently, less than 1% of homes in the US have five accessible design features: no-step entries, single floor living, extra-wide hallways and doors, accessible electrical controls and switches, and lever-style handles on doors and faucets. Homes with these features allow for ease of movement and better navigation for homeowners and visitors alike.

Philadelphia row houses

AARP-Sponsored Community Events

Ujima Partners hosted several community events, sponsored by AARP to bring community members, designers, educators, housing and health experts together for discussions about aging, health, and accessible design with a goal of generating ideas for how to best incorporate universal design and visitable features into existing row homes.

Future of Housing Data Deep Dive

Housing Solutions: ADUs

Accessory Dwelling Units

Sometimes known as accessory apartments, mother-in-law suites or "granny flats," Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) provide more housing options in existing neighborhoods by allowing homeowners to build additional units on their lots.

ADU is a catch-all term for all of these situations — whether the unit is attached to an existing home or placed elsewhere on the property, such as over a detached garage or as a stand-alone structure in the backyard. ADUs are among the housing solutions that can help to ensure that people of all ages, including older adults, have a roof over their heads.

American Planning Association Partnership

AARP is collaborating with the American Planning Association (APA) to collaborate on housing issues and solutions, including ADUs that are important to many communities across the country.


Accessory Dwelling Unit Design Catalog

AARP partnered with Blink!Lab to create an ADU design catalog for three different household types. The goal was to create a resource that can guide homeowners through the steps of designing and building an affordable housing unit on their own properties.

Download Download the ADU Design Catalog Download Download the ADU Design Catalog Flyer Download Download the ADU Design Catalog Technical Drawings Play Video Watch the ADU Design Catalog Video

A Place for Loved Ones to Live: ADUs and Caregiving

Prescott and Kai think they have an ideal space to keep Kai’s mom, Iris, close as she gets older. Prescott and Kai want to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in the garage for Iris so that she can continue living independently, but also where they’ll be nearby if she needs them.

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Creating an ADU: Building a Living Space for Family, Friends and More

Terri has decided to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in her garage. She sees this as an opportunity to provide extra space for family or friends and perhaps for rental income in the future.

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Creating a Living Space for the Neighbors: Adding ADUs to Make Communities More Livable

Scott wants to use his garage to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for someone in his community who needs low cost housing. He has public transit, a library, a park and shops near his house making this a place that could meet the needs of many community members.

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Expanding Housing Through Policy: ADUs in Ashland, OR

Maria talks about the benefits of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that create additional housing for Ashland, OR. She also shares how effective policy has encouraged this type of housing in the community.

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Meeting Housing Needs Today and Tomorrow: Creating an ADU to Age in Place

Deb and Rob have created a space to help them stay in their community as they age. Their accessory dwelling unit (ADU), is an extra living space with accessible design features, that they use now for work and see using has housing for themselves or a caregiver as they get older.

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ADUs Help Families Address a Variety of Housing Needs

ADUs (accessory dwelling units) can expand housing options to community members by offering lower cost housing that suits a variety of needs. In this video, families discuss the benefits of having an ADU including generating additional income, providing housing for a care recipient, expanding affordable housing options for community members and creating an accessible living space to support someone aging in place.

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Struggling to Stay: Rose’s Story

Rose has an apartment with easy access to transit, shops and nightlife in the heart of Brooklyn, NY but she lives paycheck to paycheck. Rose’s struggles to pay rent hinder her ability to enjoy the amenities in her neighborhood or save for the future.

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Struggling to Stay: Donna’s Story

Donna, a single-mom and substitute teacher, struggles to pay for housing. High housing costs put a financial strain on Donna’s budget and she has very few affordable options to move elsewhere within her community.

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What does home mean to you?

Donna, a single-mom and substitute teacher, struggles to pay for housing. High housing costs put a financial strain on Donna’s budget and she has very few affordable options to move elsewhere within her community.

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Falling Through the Cracks: How housing and services can support older adults experiencing homelessness

Melanie, one-time employee of a blue-chip tech company and proud homeowner, is not one whom many people might think would become homeless. But she did. Learn about her story and, in the process, find out how a community organization offering transitional housing, together with other local services, are helping her turn her life around.

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Is your home the right fit?

Elsa and Jose, married more than 40 years, share their multigenerational home in New York City with two daughters and several grandchildren. Due to arthritis, Elsa has trouble climbing the stairs and doing things around the house. One might assume they could move—but there aren’t many affordable or available housing options to accommodate their budget or specific housing needs. Learn the family’s story, and its national implications.

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Learn More About Our Livable Communities Efforts

AARP Livable Communities

AARP Livable Initiative seal

Featuring tool kits, best practices, free publications, and an award-winning e-newsletter, this AARP website provides information and inspiration for local leaders and communities nationwide.

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2018 Home and Community Preferences Survey

AARP, in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago, conducted a national survey of Americans 18 and older. The results show that 3 out of 4 adults age 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities as they age—yet many don’t see that happening for them.


AARP Public Policy Institute: Data Explorer – Housing & Transportation

The Data Explorer is AARP’s data visualization tool for data on the 50+ population. AARP DataExplorer allows users to select indicators of their choice and easily customize the data.


The AARP Livability Index

The Livability Index scores neighborhoods and communities across the U.S. using seven broad categories: housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity.


Public Policy Institute Housing Publications

See fact sheets, one-pagers, infographics, and other PPI publications on the latest in housing policy and research.