Many Americans Will Need Long-Term Care. Most Won’t be Able to Afford It.
Single family house on pile of money. Concept of real estate, home equity, cost of long-term care

They’re a better educated and more diverse group of older adults than in the past, less likely to experience poverty. Still, most will be unable to afford assisted living, the authors found.

A decade hence, 80 percent of middle-income seniors will have less than $60,000 a year in income and assets, not including equity in their homes. Yet the estimated cost of assisted living plus out-of-pocket medical expenses will hit $62,000, by the team’s conservative estimate.

Depending on how one defines the need, half to two-thirds of older Americans will eventually require long-term care.

Even among middle-income seniors with housing equity, though, more than half will be unable to pay assisted living fees and medical costs in 2029, the study found. (Independent living, while cheaper, provides some services but no hands-on care.)

“Though a very large percentage of older adults own homes, the amount of equity they have isn’t as much as they think,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “They’ve used home equity for other things, including health care.”

While the Genworth survey puts the current national average for a one-bedroom apartment in assisted living at $4,120 monthly, geographic variations can be extreme, from about $3,700 in New Orleans to over $6,000 in Boston.

Moreover, today’s middle-income older adults have more debt and less savings than earlier cohorts. They’re less likely to receive pensions and have smaller families to turn to for unpaid care.

The United States, unlike many Western democracies, has never created a broad public program covering long-term care. Medicare pays for doctors, hospitals, drugs and short-term rehab after hospitalization — not for independent or assisted living.

Read more in the New York Times.

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