Monday, May 4, 2009

Elder Economic Security

I have been motivated to look at “Elder Economic Security”, both by things going on here in California and looking at the National picture. It appears that there is a national effort (at least in five or more states) to determine a more realistic economic standard for older people. As “Older Americans Month” gets underway, this is a totally appropriate emphasis. This is “where it’s at.” We need to pay attention to it. We need to update it.

Economic issues are the most important overarching issues facing us as we grow older. Your economic situation affects housing, health, nutrition, social interaction---the whole gamut of quality of life. If you don’t have enough resources to cover your basic needs, life is very difficult indeed. We often hear of retirement or getting older as “golden years” But are they? Not for many----most, in some areas of the country.

Poverty levels and cost of living standards used by most government agencies were based on conditions in the 1950’s. In addition, there are ordinarily not allowances for different geographic areas----housing costs a lot here in CA cities, for example. Extensive studies have been done, at least at the University of MA and in CA by the UCLA-Insight program.

According to these studies, many, many seniors are poor---they don’t have enough to cover necessities, much less extras. At the same time, many in dire economic straits don’t qualify for many government supports, because eligibility is based on outdated data.

As previous bloggers have said, I am one of the lucky ones, as are most of the people who’ll read this. It’s not going to matter to me right now, for example, that social security recipients are not getting a cost-of-living increase this year, as I read in the paper this morning. But it may matter to me someday.

Meanwhile it bothers me a lot that we aren’t working hard enough to put supports in place, that more and more older people are finding it difficult to survive. The problem of not living comfortably will only get worse as time goes on, and we live longer and longer.

It is important for us to realize that the income levels and poverty are worse for older WOMEN. We have fewer savings, we get less from social security and pensions, we live longer----and longer life and gender mean more health problems, care needs, and expenses.

(In CA, legislation supporting adoption of a fairer elder economic index, was introduced this spring---AB 324.)

-Kathie Piccagli, OWL San Francisco and OWL National Board of Directors

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Until we understand and change our policies to eliminate discrimination in the workplace and to account for caregiving of children, the disabled, and the frail, women will continue to be poorer in old age than men. Those policies will not change until women demand that they change. Thanks for hosting this topic.