As baby boomers age, is there a lack of senior-friendly housing? Staten Island real estate brokers weigh in.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Staten Island real estate comes in a variety of shapes and sizes: Colonial, ranch, split-level or Tudor, each property is equipped with different levels of charm. But for the most part, only a small fraction of borough houses were built with accessibility in mind. Doorways are aesthetically narrow, staircases are steep and bathrooms and bedrooms are almost universally located on the second floor. For the aging baby boomer population, those details are a developing problem.
“Of the 115 million housing units in the United States in 2011 … only 11 million housing units (or about 10% of homes) were aging-ready,” a 2020 Census Bureau report noted, defining a step-free entryway, a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor, and at least one bathroom accessibility feature as necessary amenities for those 65-and-over.
“The United States is rapidly graying,” the report continued. “The number of older Americans is projected to more than double from 40.3 million in 2010 to 85.7 million in 2050. As America ages, more people will need homes that allow them to live safely and comfortably.”
And where you live matters: The stock of housing is older in the Mid-Atlantic region (where New York is located) because the median year of construction is 1958, the report noted. And 90% of the homes in this area are multi-story.
“Many of the ranches that were built [here in Staten Island] in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s were either knocked down or renovated into two-story colonials,” noted Joe Tirone, founding broker of Compass, Greater NY, who called the lack of senior-friendly housing a “national phenomenon” that’s “no truer than right here on Staten Island.”
Annmarie Triolo, broker/owner of Triolo Realty Group in Prince’s Bay, said she agrees.
“The ranch homes are fewer and fewer as the years pass, because a lot of people who bought ranches over the last 30 years did roof raises and turned them into colonial homes,” Triolo said. “Roof raises were really popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, because many of those ranch homes came with large properties as opposed to the new construction homes that came with much smaller lot sizes. So building customized homes from a ranch was more appealing for many buyers.”
That leaves aging adults with fewer one-story options, the Realtor noted. And any remaining older housing units usually require extensive and expensive renovations that aging adults simply cannot afford.
“When housing costs consume a large portion of household budgets, older adults often sacrifice on other necessities,” noted a recent report on housing from the Hastings Center and the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “That means spending less on food and health care than otherwise similar households do.”
There is the option of 55-and-over retirement-style living: Enclaves of those homes — most of which are single-story and equipped with all of the age-in-place conveniences — are situated all throughout the country. But according to Realtors, there is only one here on Staten Island — The Tides at Charleston.
“It’s a compounding problem, and I’m not sure any one factor will fix it,” noted Angelo Pappalardo, broker/president of Century 21 Papp Realty in Castleton Corners, referring to the lack of age-friendly housing.
Several assisted living facilities exist on the borough, the Staten Island Board of Relators (SIBOR) reported — Sunrise Senior Living, The Esplanade, The Brielle at Seaview, The Veranda and New Broadview Manor included — but locations for those who want to live independently are lacking.
“Despite the majority wanting to age in place, a good portion of baby boomers do move to smaller homes or apartments later in life,” Grid News, a digital media company based in Washington, D.C., recently reported. “Where are they going? When selling their homes, baby boomers were more likely to downsize and move the farthest distances, compared to other generations, to be closer to friends and family members.”
At 42%, Grid noted, baby boomers make up the largest share of home sellers in the last year, according to a 2022 report from the National Association of Realtors.
Recent data from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggested that many baby boomers opt to sell in hopes of avoiding nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. About half of adults say they’d consider leaving their home if it meant finding one that would help them age independently, AARP found.
And while selling a home at the top of a real estate boom can be great for retirees looking to cash out, trying to sell at the bottom of a bust can get complicated, Forbes has reported.
“If that life emergency happens at the bottom of a bust, it just makes things a lot worse for them during one of the most difficult times in their lives,” the outlet reported. “Those last-home sellers have less discretion on when they sell than first-home buyers have on when they buy.”
What matters most to those making the sell or stay decision?
“Top of the list is a home where a person can live independently as they age,” AARP noted. “Other factors include the cost of maintaining their current home and finding a house that’s easier to keep up. American adults surveyed most often look for areas that are safer, have a lower cost of living, have more affordable housing, and are located closer to family. In selecting a community, AARP finds people want access to grocery stores, health-care providers, safe parks, trails and streets, and opportunities for community engagement.”
The ideal living situation is out there, AARP reported, baby boomers just need to find the right fit.
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