Nov 30, 2022 - News

Philadelphia groups raise alarm on senior homelessness

Illustration of an elderly man in a wheelchair with a giant quarter for a wheel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Philadelphia housing experts warn that a staggering number of seniors are finding themselves homeless later in life.

State of play: In fiscal year 2021, the city reported that more than 3,100 older adults spent time at Philadelphia shelters.

  • Pathways to Housing executive director Bill Maroon told Axios that nearly 16% of the 500 people the local housing advocacy group has helped shelter were 65 and older.

Why it matters: The organization expects that number to double over the next five years as more older folks leave the workplace.

  • Philadelphia also cautioned in a report last year that the population of adults aged 55+ experiencing homelessness is expected to grow as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers age.
  • "It's a major issue that I don't think a lot of people are paying attention to," Maroon said.

Between the lines: Adults age 65 and older make up roughly 13% of the more than 350,000 Philadelphians living below the poverty level, the highest percentage in at least five years, according to the latest U.S. census data.

The big picture: Health care institutions and advocacy organizations are preparing for a wave of people who will reach retirement age in the next few years and compete over already-limited resources for aging Americans, Axios' Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi reports

  • An estimated 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the U.S., and the population of older adults is expected to double over the next few decades.

Zoom in: Local advocates told Axios that Philly's affordable housing crisis is making it more difficult to find homes for seniors in need, particularly those living with disabilities.

  • "They're aging in place, or they don't have a place to age," said Nora Dowd Eisenhower, of the Mayor's Commission on Aging.

By the numbers: The average rent for a one-bedroom in Philadelphia has swelled to about $2,000 a month, pricing out retirees who live exclusively on Social Security income (average monthly payment is around $1,630).

What they're saying: Eisenhower said city officials encourage a home-sharing program among seniors who are "house rich" to help offset rising costs.

  • Silvernest, an application similar to Airbnb, also helps pair those seeking such an arrangement and screens prospective live-in roommates who can offer company or an extra pair of hands to isolated seniors in need, Eisenhower said.

If you need help: PCA has a roughly $100 million budget to help seniors connect with services, said Eisenhower, who's also a board member of the organization.

  • PCA President Dr. Najja Orr encourages family members to check in on older loved ones, particularly during the holiday season. The organization's senior centers are also hosting events for those who may find themselves without somewhere to go for the holidays.
  • PCA Helpline: 215-765-9040 or

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more