Nationwide, the rate of homeless individuals over the age of 50 is growing. Not only are those on the streets getting older, but their health is deteriorating at rates much faster than the general population. Pressing chronic health and geriatric conditions exacerbate the housing crisis for thousands of unsheltered individuals over 50.1 Supportive housing, a proven intervention for meeting the unique and complex needs of formerly homeless individuals, is also experiencing a “graying” consumer population that calls for changes to the way that quality supportive housing is provided. Nearly 40% of supportive housing consumers are over the age of 50.1This group represents consumers who are aging in place and new residents of supportive housing over the age of 50. Research suggests that homeless adults suffer higher rates of premature mortality and age-related medical conditions compared to the general population. The proportion of homeless adults in their 50s with chronic illnesses is similar to those 15 - 20 years older who are domiciled.2 Supportive housing providers are recognizing the need for unique service enhancements to better serve formerly homeless individuals in supportive housing and partnering with health centers to provide comprehensive and age-appropriate care for their consumers. .
Health centers are also witnessing a surge in their older consumer population. Between 2013 and 2015, there was an increase in the number of consumers ages 50-64 and 65+ across all health centers at a higher rate than the overall health center population. In this time frame, there was an 18% increase in individuals age 65+ compared to an 11% increase in the total number of health center consumers.
Health Care for the Homeless funded health centers saw a 30% increase in consumers 65 and older.3 The increase in services provided to an aging population is consistent with national trends in the U.S. homeless population and warrants further exploration into how health and housing partnerships can work to address the unique needs of an aging consumer population.
This Profiles Bridging Health & Housing features Seattle-King County’s Housing Health Outreach Team and NYU-Lutheran Family Health Centers Woodstock Hotel Clinic