“The Forgotten Middle” is a term that refers to a unique segment of the senior population. These individuals, often part of the Medicare Advantage population, find themselves in a precarious situation. They have incomes that exceed the Medicaid threshold but lack substantial personal savings. This financial situation puts them in a challenging position when it comes to housing options, safety, and overall well-being.
According to a study published in Health Affairs, this group is expected to nearly double to 14.4 million by 2029. The study further reveals that many of these seniors will not have the financial resources to pay for basic services in senior housing and care settings. A more recent report by NORC at the University of Chicago predicts that by 2033, 15.9 million seniors will be considered middle market consumers, a significant increase from the previous projection of 14.4 million in 2029.
The housing challenges that “The Forgotten Middle” face are multifaceted. First, the cost of housing, particularly in areas with high living costs, can be prohibitive. Many seniors in this group live in homes that are not designed for their changing physical needs. This can lead to safety issues, such as falls, which are a leading cause of injury among seniors. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of every five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
Moreover, necessary modifications to make their homes safer and more accessible can be costly. These modifications can include installing grab bars, improving lighting, and making entryways accessible, among others. According to a NORC study, without home equity, nearly 90 percent of California’s middle-income seniors aged 75 and older will not have the financial resources to pay for assisted living in 2033.
When it comes to deciding on their next living arrangement, “The Forgotten Middle” faces significant hurdles. The options can be confusing and overwhelming. These options range from staying in their current homes with modifications, moving to senior-friendly apartments, or transitioning to senior living facilities.
However, assessing the suitability of these options can be a daunting task. For instance, understanding the services and care levels provided by different senior living facilities requires time and knowledge. Furthermore, the cost of these facilities can be a significant barrier. A report by Senior Housing News reveals that by 2033, 72% of middle-income seniors will have less than $65,000 in income and annuitized assets, which is the average amount needed to pay for both private assisted living monthly rates and medical care.
Despite these challenges, there are resources and programs designed to assist “The Forgotten Middle.” One such initiative is Upside’s “National Housing Stability Program.” This program is the only one of its kind that focuses on housing stability for seniors. It allows seniors to ‘Age in the Right Place’ and identifies members whose health is negatively impacted by housing.
Upside’s program works by receiving eligibility files and engaging members, collecting critical housing risk data, and leading interventions to ensure housing stability. These interventions can range from in-home assessments and remediation to traditional senior living guidance.
Understanding the plight of “The Forgotten Middle” is crucial for Health Plan executives. By recognizing the significance of this underserved population and the potential impact on their health outcomes, they can better serve their members. Upside’s “National Housing Stability Program” offers a unique solution to address the housing instability faced by this group. By focusing on housing stability, we can improve health outcomes and quality of life for these seniors.