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The U.S. and Japan Partner to Research Aging in Place

Image of a man standing behind a podium in front of a screen with two charts displaying the distribution of the population of Japan by age in 1965 and 2015.Experts from Japan and the U.S. discussed recent trends, research, and policies related to aging in place and housing finance at the U.S.-Japan Housing and Finance Innovation Forum in February.

Japan’s current population is among the world’s oldest. The United States is experiencing a similar demographic shift: as the baby boomers age, the number of older adults is soaring and is expected to continue increasing dramatically.

Housing will be a crucial linchpin in any plan to preserve a high quality of life for older adults. Housing affordability and accessibility, as well as the location of housing and the ability to integrate long-term care within the home or community, will determine how well this generation ages.1

The governments of Japan and the United States understand the importance of housing for older adults. For this reason, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT); HUD; and Ginnie Mae, a government-owned corporation within HUD, are leading a joint research partnership on aging in place. The Japan Housing Finance Agency and the Japan Urban Renaissance Agency have also joined the partnership in support of common goals.

Ginnie Mae promotes affordable access to housing finance through mortgage-backed securities totaling $1.76 trillion. A pioneering component of Ginnie Mae’s portfolio is the securitization of home equity conversion mortgages (HECMs) through the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage-Backed Security (HMBS) program, which helps ensure that senior homeowners can obtain affordable financing for necessary expenses through their home’s equity.

To launch the partnership, HUD and Ginnie Mae hosted their Japanese counterparts for the U.S.-Japan Housing and Finance Innovation Forum. This full-day session gathered experts in the field from Japan and the United States to discuss recent trends, research, and policies related to aging in place and housing finance in both countries. Success in mobilizing global capital markets to invest in and strengthen HMBS programs could allow senior homeowners the option to age in place while affordably meeting their personal financial needs.

The forum concluded with researchers discussing next steps for the planned research project between the two countries, which will focus on issues related to aging in place and housing finance for older adults. Specific areas of interest include innovative approaches to financing aging in place, the connections between health and housing, the effectiveness of public-private partnerships, healthy and accessible communities, and viable policies in an environment of limited resources and constrained budgets. To launch the research project, Ginnie Mae committed the initial seed funding to kick off the project. Across the Pacific, MLIT hired two researchers to lead the Japanese portion of the project.

The bilateral partnership is expected to promote increased knowledge and innovation in both countries. One such example in the United States is HUD’s demonstration to evaluate the effect of housing with services on low-income elderly populations, which is intended to delay and avoid a transition to institutional care and improve health and quality of life. The Supportive Services Demonstration for Elderly Households in HUD-Assisted Multifamily Housing is a cluster-randomized controlled trial. It will provide researchers with information to assess how an enhanced service coordinator and wellness nurse affects residents’ health care utilization. HUD’s partnership with Japan will leverage this type of information, sharing it with an international audience and allowing the two countries to learn together.

As Japan and the United States address the challenges of an aging population, the two countries value the opportunity to exchange research and best practices. This partnership is a great opportunity to examine the differing approaches and understand what strategies work for each country. Although Japan’s approach has relied more on government entities to deliver services and resources, the United States relies heavily on the private and nonprofit sectors, as well as volunteers, to support older adults. By gaining a greater understanding of each country’s approach to this challenge, both the United States and Japan will be able to take advantage of new ideas, innovative strategies, and evidence-based policies, allowing each country to better support and finance the needs of their populations as they age.

Source:

Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. 2014. “Housing America’s Older Adults: Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population.” Accessed 24 March 2017.

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