Report: Chicago Region Unprepared for “Silver Tsunami”

New Report Exposes Inadequate Housing Resources, Offers Sweeping Policy Recommendations



PRESS CONTACT: Lauren Nolan (o) 312-368-0310 (

Chicago, IL – A new research report released from research and policy nonprofit Woodstock Institute identifies the conditions and challenges facing the growing population of older adults in the Chicago region who want to age in their homes and communities, or “age in place.” The report, “Aging in Place: A Strategic Plan to Support Older Adult Housing Needs in the Chicago Region,” calls on government agencies, lawmakers, and financial institutions to enact reforms to increase the availability of affordable, accessible housing suitable for Illinois seniors.


“Many communities are not yet ready for this ‘silver tsunami’ of aging adults, and should act urgently to create age-friendly housing and services,” said report co-author and Woodstock Institute Director of Research Lauren Nolan.  The report notes that by 2035, one in three American households is expected to include at least one individual age 65 or older (citing Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, 2016).


Currently, there is a lack of accessible housing, keeping many older adults in housing that is not equipped to prevent falls or fatal accidents. As the population ages, the personal and public costs associated with caring for older adults will increase. Failure to accurately prepare will burden families, taxpayers, healthcare providers and systems (including Medicaid and emergency medical services), and the housing sector.


These problems can be avoided, however, with a coordinated private and public effort to help seniors age in place. The report recommends reforms in a multitude of areas, including pubic finance and programing, private finance, tax policy, health, and housing. Explaining that aging in place needs vary based on community characteristics such as poverty levels and homeownership rates, the report divides the Chicago seven-county region into four “typologies” or groups based on the following characteristics:

  • Percent of the population age 55 and older;
  • Percent of householders age 55 and older who are homeowners;
  • Percent of adults age 55 and older living below the poverty line; and,
  • Percent of the housing stock comprised of single family units

For each typology, the report provides a “strategic plan” for how the area can prepare itself for the growing wave of older adults in the population.


For example, one typology includes the area of Chicago that encompasses the Northwest Side and is characterized by low homeownership rates among older adults, high poverty rates among older adults, and a wide variety of housing types (rental units, single-family homes, etc.).  Woodstock notes that older adults in this typology have fewer resources to fund home modifications to make aging in place possible. For this area, Woodstock recommends the following:

  • Protect and expand public funding and programs, such as the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) pilot Supportive Services Demonstration for Elderly Households in HUD-Assisted Multifamily Housing Program, which covers costs related to hiring wellness nurses and full-time service coordinators who connect senior tenants with supportive services needed to safely age in place;
  • Give credit under the Community Reinvestment Act to banks that support aging in place home modifications in low- and moderate-income areas;
  • Expand and promote tax exemptions, such as the Long-time Homestead Exemption or Senior Citizen Tax Deferment, to protect homeowners from rising property taxes in gentrifying areas;
  • Offer municipal “handyman programs” that provide free or discounted home repairs and modifications; and,
  • Integrate health and housing costs and services together, such as using Medicaid dollars to cover specific housing costs.


The report was steered by an advisory group of housing and aging experts, including BRick Partners, AARP Illinois, Metropolitan Planning Counsel, City of Chicago Department of Public Health, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and Age Options. Major funding for the report was provided by First Midwest Bank, JP Morgan Chase, and The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust. The content of the report reflects the views of Woodstock and its partners and does not necessarily represent the views of its funders.