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Housing: Alternative Options - Homelessness

age aging nursing social elderly shelter persons alternatives

The homeless are defined as persons lacking a permanent residence. Their accommodations at night may be a public or private shelter or a place not intended to be a shelter, such as a train station. Nationwide, 6 percent of homeless people are between fifty-five and sixty-four years of age, and 2 percent are sixty-five or older.

Most homeless elderly have an unstable residential history over a period of years. The majority of homeless elderly are males who have experienced lifetime alcohol abuse, lived alone, had cognitive problems, moved from shelter to shelter, and refused to seek institutionalization. Even if placement in a nursing home would improve their lives, they are unwilling to seek help from traditional health and social service agencies. Homeless older people are likely to remain on the streets and continue their lifestyle. Whether by choice or by necessity, homelessness for these elderly persons is a fact of life, and so far society has not found another housing alternative for them.

Although the housing alternatives described above are available to older people and persons with disabilities, the choice of any one of them depends largely on affordability, willingness to relocate, physical and mental functioning, socio-economic status, race, and gender. If the present trend continues, even more diverse alternatives will have to be developed to accommodate individual income levels and lifestyle choices of the future aging population. The new demographics will likely force the public and private sectors to cooperate and develop housing alternatives until the ultimate goal of community living is achieved and institutions become the last alternative living arrangement for older Americans.



American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). National Survey of Mobile Home Owners— Executive Summary. Washington, D.C.: AARP, 1999.

GOLANT, S. Housing America's Elderly. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1992.

HARE, P. "The Echo Housing/Granny Flat Experience in the U.S." In. Granny Flats as Housing for the Elderly: International Perspectives. Edited by N. Lazarowich. New York: Haworth Press, 1991. Pages 57–70.

PYNOOS, J., and REDFOOT, D. "Housing Frail Elders in the United States." In Housing Frail Elders: International Policies, Perspectives, and Prospects. Edited by J. Pynoos and P. Liebig. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. Pages 187–210.

SHERWOOD, S.; RUCHLIN, H.; and SHERWOOD, C. "CCRCs: An Option for Aging in Place." In Aging in Place: Supporting the Frail Elderly in Residential Environments. Edited by D. Tilson. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1990. Pages 125–164.

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