Capital News Service

Housing demand up for ‘skyrocketing’ older population

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Demand for independent senior living facilities is on the rise, with two additional sites undergoing construction in 2022 in Grand Traverse and Washtenaw counties. 

Michigan has over 500 independent living and over 1,200 assisted living facilities for seniors according to Seniorliving.org.

The increase in the rate at which the state is graying is one reason for the higher need for additional facilities, said Karen Kafantaris, the AARP’s associate state director.

“The country is aging, and we’re aging very fast here in Michigan,” she said. 

Kafantaris said there are a number of reasons, especially access to better health care and a healthier lifestyle than previous generations had.

“By 2030, not only are one in four people going to be over 65, we’re living longer too,” she said. “That 85-and-older demographic is skyrocketing.”

More people have mobility problems that require them to move out of their homes when they’re 85 and older, said Kafantaris. 

When there’s no alternative housing available, older adults might turn to more accessible senior-specific housing.

“They have no-step entrances to their units, wider hallways, raised toilets,” Kafantaris said.

Another reason an older person might live in such a facility is the lack of affordable options.

“Affordability is a huge problem, not just for older adults but across the board in Michigan,” she said. 

According to data from Esri, a national analytics software company, one-third of households of people 55 or older in the Midwest region are projected to have an annual income of $35,000 or less by 2026.

Both of the senior community projects that are underway, one in Traverse City and the other in Ann Arbor, have units dedicated as affordable housing. 

The Village at LaFranier Woods Senior Community, an independent living center that will be in Traverse City, has designated half of its units for seniors with incomes 60% below the area’s median income.

Kandi Lannen, the director of community and business advancement at the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan, said there’s demand in the area for additional affordable housing for older adults. 

The agency services 10 counties: Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford. 

“A contributing factor to the growth in the older adult population in the area may be the beauty of Northern Michigan, which attracts people as a place to retire,” Lannen said. 

Construction on the Lockwood of Ann Arbor is underway. The facility will have over 150 independent senior apartments and is set to open in 2023. 

A sense of community that senior living centers provide is another motive for older adults to live in them.

Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, serves on the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee. She said many older people don’t have family around to help care for them or just keep them company.

Being able to interact with others is a driving reason why many older adults desire to live in senior communities, she said.

And Kafantaris said, “Isolation is as debilitating as any other disease – socialization is important.”

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