Renting may be the best option for seniors, study finds

Sarah Paynter
·Reporter
Relaxed satisfied older woman sitting leaning back on couch in air conditioner room, happy peaceful mature female with hands behind head resting on sofa at home, enjoying fresh air, breathing
Relaxed satisfied older woman sitting leaning back on couch in air conditioner room, happy peaceful mature female with hands behind head resting on sofa at home, enjoying fresh air, breathing

Homeownership may have many benefits, but it isn’t always the right option for everyone.

For Americans over age 65, rentals are usually the most safe, secure, affordable housing option that enhances independence and community engagement, according to a measure of neighborhood livability by AARP and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

“Renters, especially those at higher incomes, are often more flexible and mobile when choosing housing, and able to select locations where there is greater walkability and access to a variety of shops, parks, and entertainment venues,” explained the study.

Americans over age 65 are less likely to live in high-livability neighborhoods, often preferring to “stay in their homes and neighborhoods as they age,” said Shannon Guzman, policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute at a video conference on October 30.

But older renters’ quality of life is boosted by proximity to grocery stores, libraries, parks, healthy food, shops, restaurants, movie theaters, jobs and other services, the study found. Limited access to these amenities can be an even greater burden for seniors than for younger renters, since age can limit mobility, independence and social engagement, according to analysts.

“Older owners living in places with the highest livability are living in places that score particularly highly in transportation, housing and amenities,” said Jennifer Molinsky, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and a Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design.

Homeowners over the age of 65, tended to live in less livable locations, but they did tend to have better air and water quality, health care, internet access, social engagement opportunities and job opportunities than renters.

“On the owner side, health [care access] stands out more than on the renter side,” said Molinsky, “but housing [accessibility and affordability] gets particularly lower scores.”

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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