Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Inequality - Multiple Bases Of Inequality: Conceptual Issues, Status And Power, Housing, Health, Conclusion

Inequality - Housing

age nursing differences adults people live income

Contrary to popular opinion, the majority (95 percent in the United States) of older people (age 65 and over) live within the community and not in institutional settings such as nursing homes. Among those older people who live in communities, most live in homes that they own (77 percent in the United States).

The structural factors that the U.S. government uses to evaluate housing problems include whether a household has adequate heating and cooling systems, plumbing, and kitchen facilities; whether it has structural defects; and whether there is equipment in need of repair. These structural issues are a significant concern for older people living within a community, because almost 8 percent of them live in dwellings that have moderate to severe structural problems. The U.S. government also assesses housing on the basis of whether it is overcrowded, and on whether there are excessive shelter costs. Very few older adults live in overcrowded households, but one-quarter of older homeowners and one-third of older renters are considered to spend too much of their income on housing. In other words, between one-quarter and one-third of older people spend over 30 percent of their income on housing, and people in this situation are not thought to have enough money available to spend on food, medical expenses, transportation, and clothing.

Low-income households are at higher risk of housing problems than are high-income households, regardless of age. This fact has led some commentators to conclude that housing policies that target older adults should be abandoned for housing policies that focus more specifically on income. Others argue that older adults are in unique situations that require specific housing-policy initiatives. For instance, to the extent that older adults are more frail than younger adults, their housing deficiencies may not be well captured by typical measures of housing problems. As an example, a significant housing problem for an older adult may be the need for assistive devices installed in the bathroom. If an older adult cannot afford such devices, then they are at risk of injury and their home does not meet their basic safety needs. This is an issue that most younger adults do not face. Furthermore, older adults may suffer the negative consequences of living in substandard housing more so than younger adults do. The fact that every year there are North American news reports of older people dying from the summer heat or the winter cold is a point that attests to this claim.

There are also subgroups of older people, the very old (eighty-five+) and black older adults in particular, that are at heightened risk of occupying poor housing (Golant & LaGreca, 1995).This suggests that researchers must carefully consider how age and race intersect in assessments of housing deficiencies and that diversity among those aged sixty-five and older is an important issue in this regard. Assessments of gender differences are rare in the literature on housing deficiencies in later life. This seems a bit odd in light of the fact that higher proportions of older women than older men live alone and that living alone likely increases one's risk of suffering negative consequences of poor housing because there may be no one available to help in times of crisis. Furthermore, because there are well established relationships between poverty and gender and between poverty and poor housing, neglecting potential gender differences in housing seems particularly odd. However, studies on housing often use the household as the unit of analysis and rely on census information that defines household heads on the basis of the name that appears on the lease or land title. Hence, problems with data may make it difficult to fully capture gender inequality in housing.

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