Abstract: Racial disparities in anticipated housing service use among community-dwelling older adults (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

124P Racial disparities in anticipated housing service use among community-dwelling older adults

Saturday, January 16, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Fei Sun, PhD , Arizona State University, Assistant Professor, Glendale, AZ
Jordan I. Kosberg, PhD , University of Alabama, Professor, Tuscaloosa, AL
Background and Purpose: Some older adults move to retirement communities which often combine dwelling units with services, and other amenities. Yet, many other older adults who cannot afford such service-rich retirement communities may have little access to adequate housing as a result of their deteriorating health or limited income. Given disparities found between White and African American (AA) older adults, it is concluded that older AA adults are more likely to live in poor housing; thus, having more unmet housing needs. This study examined the perceptions of older adults regarding their anticipated future use of two housing programs: (1) Weatherization Assistance Programs (i.e., home maintenance services to make homes more energy efficient) and (2) Public housing. Drawing upon a modified Andersen behavior model, this study hypothesized that Predisposing Factors (e.g., age, gender), Needs (e.g., physical functioning, health status), and Enabling Factors (e.g., income, informal support) differentially predict the anticipated future housing service use by AAs and Whites. The study had three specific aims: (1) To identify racial differences in perceived future housing service needs among community dwelling older adults ; (2) To identify predictors of anticipated future use of Weatherization Services by race, and (3) To identify predictors of the anticipated use of Public Housing by race.

Methods: Analyses were based upon survey data undertaken by an Area Agency on Aging in Alabama (in collaboration with the University of Alabama) of 278 community-dwelling older adults, aged 60 or older. Participants came from seven counties in Alabama; six of them being rural. Participants averaged 73.5 (SD=7.7) years of age, 32% were AA participants, 75.5% were female, and half lived alone. Outcome variables included answers to two dichotomous questions regarding the anticipation of using the Weatherization Service in the future and the anticipation of using public housing in the future. Logistic regression analyses were conducted.

Results: It was found that 29.4% of participants indicated they would consider using Weatherization Service and 17.4% would consider using Public Housing. AA older adults were more likely to anticipate future use of Weatherization Service (39.3% for AAs vs. 23.9% for Whites) (p<.01) and of Public Housing (24.7% for Blacks vs. 13.6% for Whites) (p< .05). For AAs, lower income adequacy and higher education level predicted their anticipated use of Weatherization, while the years living in current household predicted the anticipated use of Weatherization for Whites. For AAs, lower income adequacy and higher levels of perceived informal support predicted anticipated use of Public Housing, while female gender predicted anticipated Public Housing use for Whites.

Conclusions and Implications: Income inadequacy is a significant factor that leads AA older adults to seek governmental support to maintain their homes or move to public housing. Without a comprehensive federal housing policy for older adults, social workers and others need to ensure existing housing programs (such as Weatherization and Public Housing) are accessible to community dwelling older adults. This suggests that special efforts should target poor AA older adults, as well as While older women, and those living in older homes.