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Academically, I know that falling home values - and the resulting loss of housing equity - have the potential to seriously impede an older adult's ability to respond to changing circumstances.  For example, the inability or unwillingness to sell a home at a depreciated value could prevent someone from moving to a more suitable home, and a homeowner's diminished equity could make less money available for important home modifications.  Has anyone seen evidence of this?  What strategies are being used to address situations like these?

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We are contemplating a study of how the housing debacle has affected seniors in Wisconsin - especially, but not limited to, women. Would it be important to compare the loss in home values and subsequent loss in equity across regions? There is definitely evidence, but we haven't seen it quantified. What would be a strategy? providing incentives to allow older people to sell? Another complicating factor is the reduced ability of public or nonprofit entities to provide services (e.g., meals on wheels) to those who remain at home.
Judy, this sounds like a very interesting project. Is it important to show regional differences within Wisconsin, or would showing state-wide effects be sufficient? It would be quite interesting to pair an analysis of falling home values with a survey investigating home value impacts on plans to modify the home or move to a more suitable residence. Along with subsidizing home sales for older adults, a more cost-effective strategy may be to support the nonprofits who are struggling to provide services.
We are just scoping this out -- although we know the need is there. Maybe county by county in Wisconsin, but will probably want to compare to other states -- either in the Midwest or, of course, nationally. We must stay in touch. I've been involved in efforts to start a Madison-area Housing Trust Fund -- and, with two co-authors, wrote a white paper on institutional investing in seniors housing and long-term care facilities -- that was in the last half of 2007, just as the bubble was bursting, but who knew?

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