African American older adults face a major retirement crisis (Rhee, 2013; Vinik, 2015)). Owing to a legacy of racial discrimination in education, housing, employment, and wages or salaries, they are less likely than their white counterparts to have accumulated wealth over the course of their lives (Sykes, 2016). In 2013, the median net worth of African American older adult households ($56,700) was roughly one-fifth of the median net worth of white older adult households ($255,000) (Rosnick and Baker, 2014). Not surprising, given these disparities in net worth, African American older adult males (17%) and females (21%) were much more likely than their white male (5%) and female (10%) counterparts to live in poverty (Johnson and Parnell, 2016; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013a). They also were more likely to experience disabilities earlier in life and to have shorter life expectancies (Freedman and Spillman, 2016).
Because they report “challenges with a range of activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)….[including] difficulty dressing, vision difficulty, difficulty going out, physical difficulty, and difficulty remembering” (Johnson and Huan, 2018, 8), these older adults are least likely to be able to age in place, that is, in their homes and communities. Rather, they are the ones most likely to need long term care and support services as they continue to age—in all likelihood in an institutional setting unless viable strategies to update and modify their existing dwelling units and broader living environments are devised (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013a; Mann, et. al., 2016; Mosqueda and Sabatino, 2016).