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Many older middle-income earners, called 'the forgotten middle,' can't afford long-term care

Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

Middle-income older adults are sometimes called "the forgotten middle" because their income is too high to receive government help should they need long-term care, but not high enough to afford it on their own.  A new report aims to address this growing problem.

Lauren Dunning is the director of the Center for the Future of Aging at the Milken Institute, and one of authors of the report. Milken is a non-partisan think tank. 

"There was a recent report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies that just came out this winter on 'Housing America's Older Adults 2023,’ and they did some assessments on affordability, and they found out that 84% of older adults 75-plus in the Phoenix, greater Phoenix area, can't afford assisted living prices."

Yet someone turning 65 today has an almost 70% chance of needing some kind of long-term care, which is typically not covered by Medicare. 

The report offers solutions when it comes to financing care models and affordable housing that are also scalable. But that requires capital, says Caitlin McLean, a senior director at the institute. 

"So, having them have access to capital to say, can you rethink the way that you deliver services or rethink the assets that you have in terms of the homes. Can you retrofit property like distressed assets, malls, you know, college dorms?"

By 2029, more than half of middle-income Americans 75 and older are projected to fall into that forgotten middle category. 

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Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.