By Emma Ayers and Fay Gordon
[Editor’s note: This post was originally published 2/29/16 on American Society on Aging’s AgeBlog.]
Each day, we see the impacts of aging, whether within ourselves or in conversations with family and friends. But when we curl up at the end of the day, and escape into the world of streaming TV and film, the images reflected back at us paint a picture far different from reality.
Unfortunately, as we were reminded during last night’s Academy Awards, the stories told in films, and the actors telling those stories, often fail to reflect the diversity of experience in this country. In 2015’s top grossing films, aging was portrayed through the eyes of a wealthy businessman (The Intern), adventurous globetrotting pensioners (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and a woman who physically cannot age (The Age of Adeline). Read More
KALW Local Public Radio: Your Call: The economic realities of retiring (2/16/2016) On February 17, the radio talk show Your Call with Rose Aguilar on KALW, a Bay Area NPR affiliate, welcomed Justice in Aging Attorney Amber Cutler on her show to talk about senior poverty, and what retirement means in a time of declining pensions and savings, benefit cuts, rising inequality, and higher health care, food, and housing costs.
The first, an Atlantic article, projects a shocking rise in senior poverty between now and 2050. Renowned economist, Teresa Ghilarducci from the New School for Social Research, used current rates of senior poverty to determine that unless we take action now to strengthen our country’s retirement system, 25 million elderly Americans will be poor in 2050. That’s more people than the entire populations of Florida, New York, and 46 other states (only California and Texas currently have more than 25 million people living in them).
We watched the recent Democratic debate with hopes of hearing some plans for addressing the growing crisis of poverty and inequality in our nation. Would any of the candidates really talk about poverty? Would would any of them even mention the 6.4 million senior citizens living in poverty?
1. Women over 75 are at particular risk of poverty. According to the official poverty measure, 14.7% of women over age 75 live in poverty. This is nearly double the rate of men in this age group (7.6%). America’s oldest women also experience significantly higher poverty rates than women 65 to 75 (10.1%) years old. This data confirms what we already knew – that women are more likely than their male counterparts to be poor as they age. This is the result of a variety of economic and social policies that we have yet to address. This video provides a window into what life is like for older women struggling in poverty. Today’s data also demonstrates something else significant – that the older women grow, the more likely they are to be poor. This is an important reminder that any data that looks just at people 65 and over as a single, monolithic group will significantly undercount the challenges of poverty facing older adults that are in their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond. Read More
Nationally, twenty-three percent of low-income older adults currently face food insecurity – meaning they lack consistent access to adequate food. This figure is expected to double over the next decade as the number of seniors living in poverty continues to increase. In Los Angeles County, there are over 300,000 low-income seniors who cannot make ends meet. Yet, only a fraction of this population – approximately nineteen percent – receive free food or assistance through existing meal programs.
The misguided policy that nearly made Rosa Martinez homeless is rearing its ugly head again. Rosa Martinez, a California woman whose disability benefits were stopped because the Social Security Administration mistook her for a Florida woman with the same name, was Justice in Aging’s lead Plaintiff in the case Martinez v. Astrue.
Imagine if there were a program that would help older adults living in poverty meet their basic needs: pay for rent, buy groceries, and stay safe and warm. Imagine if this same solution also helped people with disabilities of all ages. Sounds pretty powerful, right?