Memory Loss From Aging Raises Housing Concerns

March 30, 2016

As baby boomers begin to enter retirement years, new challenges will likely arise with “significant implications” within home ownership, notes researchers in a new report, “Cognition and the Housing Behavior of Americans,” released by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.

"In particular, given the impact of aging on memory and other cognitive skills, there is a need to consider the implication for financial decisions made by older individuals,” notes the paper’s author, Gary V. Engelhardt, a professor at Syracuse University. “By the time individuals are arriving into traditional retirement ages, when many important financial decisions are made, cognitive skills are already in decline as part of normal cognitive aging." 

Among some of the report’s key findings are:

  • 28% of home owners and 36% of renters aged 65 and older in 2012 rated themselves as having a fair or poor memory. 
  • 7% of home owners and 16% of renters aged 65 and older in 2012 self-reported a medical diagnosis of memory disease.
  • For older home owners, memory and cognition hold relatively stable until the late 70s, then decline fairly rapidly. By age 90, about 20 percent of older home owners suffer from memory disease.
  • Typical declines in memory and cognition are associated with substantial increases in difficulty with managing money. It can also lead to big changes in home ownership and shared living arrangements.
  • Memory and cognition declines were also found to be linked with an increase in mortgage delinquency, especially for older women. 

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association