The Foreclosure Crisis, Community Change, and the Cognitive Health of Older Adults

Published in: The Journals of Gerontology: Series B (Advance Access publication, April 2020). doi:10.1093/geronb/gbaa047

by Esther M. Friedman, Jason N. Houle, Kathleen A. Cagney, Mary Ellen Slaughter, Regina A. Shih

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While home foreclosures are often thought of as a household-level event, the consequences may be far-reaching, and spill over to the broader community. Older adults, in particular, could be affected by the spiral of community changes that result from foreclosures, but we know very little about how the foreclosure crisis is related to older adult health, in particular cognition.


This article uses growth curve models and data from the Health and Retirement Study matched to Census and county-level foreclosure data to examine whether community foreclosures are related to older adults' cognitive health and the mechanisms responsible.


We find that higher rates of county-level foreclosures are associated with a faster decline in individual cognition at older ages. Although we examined an extensive number of individual and community mechanisms, including individual housing wealth and depressive symptoms, community structural factors, social factors, and perceptions of physical disorder and cohesion, none of the mechanisms examined here explained this relationship.


This study shows that the adverse consequences of home foreclosures spill over to the local community, with implications for the cognitive health of older adults.

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