The 2021 Silver Survey Finds Older Homeowners May Need Creative Solutions to Realize Their Retirement Lifestyle Dreams
This summer, the Silvernest team started wondering: How do older American homeowners feel about their retirement finances and ability to age in place, 15 months into this new pandemic-framed reality?
Because we love data, we commissioned a survey to find out. The 2021 Silver Survey went out to a group of older homeowners, none of which are current Silvernest members. Armed with pre-2020 research on retirement and aging in place, we wanted to see whether older Americans’ plans and prospects are changing—and, if so, how.
Pessimism About Financial Readiness for Retirement
In late August and early September of 2019, The Harris Poll conducted a Road to Retirement Survey on behalf of TD Ameritrade. The survey showed a distinct lack of confidence among respondents over the age of 50 who had at least $25,000 in investable assets. In fact, when asked to grade their current retirement savings, 66% of respondents aged 50-59 gave themselves a “C” or below. Among those 60-69, more than half graded themselves a C, D or F. Those 70 and older fared only slightly better, with 55% grading their retirement savings a “C” or below.
Unlike the TD Ameritrade/Harris Poll research, our survey focused entirely on older homeowners. 71% of Silver Survey respondents said they are looking for ways to earn more money in retirement. 50% said either that they’re worried they don’t have enough money saved for retirement—or know they don't. Whereas retirement used to mean relaxing and enjoying life, these homeowners are looking to bring in more income. And many expressed concern or even dread that they would not have enough money to live as they please.
Conflicting Desires and Expectations Around Aging in Place
In AARP’s 2018 Home and Community Preferences survey, three out of four Americans over 50 wanted to remain in their current home as long as possible. Only 46% of U.S. adults over 50 anticipated they’d be able to do so.
Among the homeowners in our Silver Survey, a robust 88% said it was important to them to remain in their own home as long as possible.
Beneath that very strong desire, however, is a drumbeat of pessimism and uncertainty. Only 25% said they and their house are ready for the realities of aging in place. When asked to select all of the housing options they are considering, 80% of Silver Survey respondents chose “aging in place.” Roughly half were considering downsizing, while about a third were thinking about relocating to a retirement/age-restricted community. The #4 answer, “I am still trying to figure it out,” tells us that many respondents simply don’t know what they’ll do next.
Homesharing as a Creative Solution Gains Momentum
The 2018 AARP survey found that many adults over 50 were willing to consider creative solutions for aging in place, including homesharing and so-called “villages” that provide services to enable aging in place. The 2018 AARP survey found that older Americans were much more willing, compared to 2014 responses, to consider homesharing for extra income or if they needed help with daily activities. And just this past summer, 44% of the homeowners in our Silver Survey said they’d consider homesharing, even though only 25% had lived with a non-relative in the past five years.
Since people are already familiar with the idea of roommates, homesharing may have a head start on other aging-in-place solutions. In an analysis of census data, The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies discovered that the number of older adults living with unrelated roommates grew dramatically between 2006 and 2016.
The aging-in-place benefits of homesharing are unique, and our Silver Survey bears that out. Whether respondents had experienced homesharing before or not, they selected the same top four benefits: extra income, companionship, help around the house, and peace of mind for themselves and/or their family.
Clearly, extra income is a strong motivator. Among those in our survey who would consider homesharing, most said they’d use the extra income for general living costs (including their mortgage and bills). At least half also said they’d use the income to pad their retirement savings. These priorities are also reflected among current Silvernest members. In late Spring of 2020, members told us they joined Silvernest in search of extra income, companionship and help around the house. As Silvernesters age in place, they may also be able to use the extra income from homesharing to pay for professional medical or non-medical caregiving, as needed.
Creative Support for Caregivers
Another compelling finding from the Silver Survey: 48% of respondents said they had cared for an aging loved one living at home. Of those, 60% listed non-medical caregiving (transportation, help with home upkeep, etc.) as one of the most challenging parts of that experience.
More and more Americans are being sandwiched between full-time work, family life and caring for an aging parent. It’s no secret that supporting this growing segment of the population will require sweeping change and creative thinking. Homesharing can enable a new category of non-medical caregiving that lessens the burden on family members. It can also provide income to pay for professional/medical care. The challenge will be allowing ourselves to consider homesharing as an option.
The Future of Aging in Place May Be Different. It Can Also Be Better.
There’s no question that the last few years have been transformational for the U.S. as well as the world. But so far, the 2021 Silver Survey suggests the desires and expectations of older Americans are much the same as they were pre-pandemic. For many, financial retirement readiness is still up in the air, and people are not at all confident they'll be able to remain in their homes and communities as they age. The cozy “white picket fence” retirement experienced by the Greatest Generation probably won’t happen for most of us (it may even have been something of a myth).
Aging in place is still the goal for most Americans over 50, but they acknowledge the need for more creative living solutions and support to make it happen—if not for themselves, then for their friends, family and neighbors. Homesharing is one of the best and most creative solutions, with a proven track record of providing both needed income and companionship. It also offers additional benefits that can deeply enrich quality of life.
Homesharing can increase connections across gender and generations. For example, among Silver Survey respondents who would consider homesharing:
76% would rent to someone younger
31% would rent to someone older
50% would rent to someone of a different gender
Homesharing offers a new way to give back. In a recent meta-analysis published by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that older adults show “significantly greater altruism than younger adults.” Among Silver Survey respondents who would consider homesharing:
63% said they’d rent to a service corps member (Teach For America, Americorps, etc.)
73% would rent to a teacher or essential worker
77% would rent to a traveling nurse
Homesharing can provide “just enough support” for easier aging in place.
In another compelling finding from the Silver Survey, 48% of respondents said they had cared for an aging loved one living at home. Of those, 60% said the most challenging part of the experience involved taking care of things such as transportation, home upkeep, pet care, etc.
In homesharing, a roommate may provide practical lifestyle support (help with transportation, meal prep, etc.) and home maintenance support. The details of this support can be defined in the leasing agreement in exchange for reduced rent—or simply outlined in a “division of labor” section of a house rules agreement. Either way, expectations and obligations can be spelled out and agreed to in advance. This kind of support relieves some of the burden on family members, and may even help eliminate or delay the need for more professionalized caregiving, while also relieving family members from expectations and the feeling of obligation.
With homesharing, aging in place can be more feasible—as well as more fulfilling—for more Americans.
Silvernest was created to change how we can live by delivering the many benefits of homesharing (independence, housing choices, financial wellness, powerful social connections) at scale through an all-in-one online homesharing platform. Features include roommate matching via a proprietary compatibility algorithm, in-app messaging, background checks and an online hub of resources and tools. To date, we’ve helped homeowners and renters recognize over $50 million in rent income and savings by homesharing with a compatible roommate.