Golden Years Dim For Growing Numbers Of Aging Poor

January 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

If you’re poor or ever have been you know that costs others may take for granted loom and finding aid takes time, patience, and good searching skills. Many places that help require quick action and personal appearances for intake interviews. It’s a challenge for most people but for those with physical limitations, problems with memory or no transportation it’s daunting and aid can go unfound and unclaimed. That’s part of why late 2011 news announcing that 1 in 6 seniors may be poor is so troublesome. How many of those elders aren’t finding advocates who can help? I hate to imagine.

Any senior who faces the hardships of poverty is a tragedy. Old age has many natural hardships and poverty just compounds an already challenging stage of life. Prior to new Census analysis, using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, it was believed that 9% of the senior population lived that tragedy. But the more sophisticated analysis that takes into account things like the cost of medicine found that nearly 16% of our older population are struggling at the poverty line.  

“My health insurance has asked for a raise. I am having $313.00 taken out of my Social Security check now. When you take that away from $900.00 you don’t have much to pay for the rent,” writes a woman in Maryland. “I’m on Social Security disability and I am raising two grandchildren. I don’t have custody of them and I draw no extra money for help. We are living from one pay check to paycheck and still do without,” writes another. They’re two of more than 4,000 elders who contributed their story of economic hardship at One Away in order to help Congress understand financial crisis in old age and the necessity of financial supports.

Struggling seniors are members of America’s invisible community so you may not realize that, in 2010, 3.5 million lived BELOW the poverty line. Feeding America found that even if there was some money to buy food older people often had trouble accessing groceries because of health and transportation problems. Older people also have SNAP (food stamps) cards less often even though they meet eligibility criteria.

Add homelessness to the list of woes in old age. Jobs, houses, and retirement savings lost in the recession are hard to overcome in later years. Though homelessness hasn’t historically been an aging issue The National Alliance to End Homelessness anticipates a 33% rise in aging people without homes between 2010 and 2020 caused by pressures such as: financial collapse, job loss, mental health challenges, discontinued or inadequate public assistance, relationship problems, physical problems and illness or disagreements with family or friends offering shelter.

Streetlife isn’t meant for anyone but it’s especially hard on elders. In San Diego county in 2009 25% of the transitional housing population were 51+ and 28% of the local emergency shelters were over 51.   Homeless advocates view 50 as old in terms of homelessness. Many people living on the street don’t reach 62 and living outside will progress aging significantly.

Life is not getting easier or mellower for a shockingly significant percent of the aging population.You can help by contacting elected officials about saving benefits for older people and protecting Medicare and Social Security which are often the only sources of income and health protection people have. Take good care of parents, grandparents and aging relatives. If your neighbor is aging check in occasionally to see what may be needed. Aging isn’t easy. Aging with worry and financial stress is hard. Your care and support won’t solve poverty but can make someone’s life more tolerable.

Poverty Compounds Troubles for Children in Immigrant Families

November 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Children born into immigrant families often live in a scarier world then most of us. Aggression against their families flares in our country and is institutionized in the department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE deported 46,000 parents in the first six months of this year according to researcher Seth Freed Wessler speaking to Democracy Now. When parents are deported or detained their US born children often enter the foster care system and sometimes never see their mother and father again. This is the subject of a new study called Shattered Families. Immigrant children also may be living with abuse. Women in abusive relationships can be afraid to seek help because they fear deportation and lack social support. In some cultures more than 40% of women are subject to domestic violence

This isn’t a blog about deportation, domestic violence or immigration but this context is important in understanding the special hardship children in immigrant families face when they also endure poverty. 4.2 million kids in immigrant families are in poverty and their experience is uniquely hard because so many of those families can’t get food stamps or low income health insurance because of law and bias. 

Since the mid 2000’s poverty rates for immigrant families have increased the most in Suburban areas across the country. Suburbs aren’t often prepared to deliver poverty support much less poverty support to foreign born families. Outside of cultural and language differences other differences distinguish immigrant families from native born poor. They’re more apt to be a married couple with children and more often include a family member that’s working full time but not earning enough to support the household according to an August study from the Brookings Institution. For exact figures on immigrant poverty in your state and a fuller explanation of the issue read that study.  It may help you understand why so many people are working hard for fairer treatment of our immigrant neighbors.

Hunger in the Land of Plenty

November 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

All across our nation the smell of food wafts from restraunts along commercial streets. Absolutely every wonderful scent is represented.  Food is the celebrity on magazine covers and the focus of it’s own national television network. Food seems plentiful in this country yet startling figures are coming out  revealing that food hardship afflicts 14.9% of households in America and a shocking 23% of households with children. County by county these statistics may vary but let’s read that again…nationally 23% of households with children have difficulty getting the food they need; that’s one in four. 

Hunger in a land of plenty can be explained succinctly.  Phenomenal rises in grocery prices, declining median incomes, swelling poverty numbers, stubborn unemployment

Community garden

 Where can we begin to help? There are strong networks of food banks in America. The pressure is high on those existing organizations now.  Can you redirect money to give monthly to your local food bank  during these hard times?  Can you volunteer? Maybe you have an idea for a new way to help or can get involved in recent efforts that augment the food banks.  Some, such as the Urban garden movement, focus on growing food to feed neighbors. Others emphasize recovery of food. The USDA estimates that a 5% saving in food discards could feed 4 million more people daily and reduce the 31 billion dollars a year businesses and communities pay to get rid of unharvested/unwanted/unsold foods. Organize restraunts in your community to donate food, fundraise for hunger, or participate in a  Gleening Network

 This is a land of plenty; plenty of food and plenty of talented caring people. With focus and effort we can reach a time when noone in America needs to go hungry. Today we can begin to make that difference.

Uninsured America Nearing Majority in Many Communities

October 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

Greece and it’s debt woes moved the stock market, Iraq and our involvement was on the news every day yet the populations of those two countries added together are smaller than the number of uninsured in the USA in 2010.  That number, 49.9 million and 16.3% , climbed in the opening decade of the 21st century. What impact is that having on our society and our communites and why aren’t we doing more to treat the uninsured?

The consequences of an uninsured epidemic are every bit as grave as war. Tragically, high numbers of uninsured increase mortality. New studies from Harvard Medical School show that someone dies from lack of health insurance every 12 minutes. Nearly 45,000 people die in America each year because they didn’t have enough money to see their family doctor for a preventable or treatable condition.  Our county’s infant mortality rate is an abysmal 27th among 30 industrialized countries in part because more than 800,000 pregnant women are uninsured.

The number of uninsureds unable to afford basic healthcare and prescribed drugs is reaching a majority in our communities. 45% of single mothers reported not going to the doctor when they needed to and 43% didn’t fill a prescription. 39% of Hispanic women didn’t go to the doctor as needed, 32% of all Black men hadn’t filled a needed prescription, 52% of the unemployed skipped seeing a doctor when they had to, and 47% of unemployed men were struggling to pay a medical bill. In fact, high percentages of all the above respondents profiled in Women and Men Living on the Edge: Economic Insecurity after the Great Depression were having trouble paying medical bills.

Healthcare is expensive but the cost of not providing healthcare is human lives. As our country withdraws from the long years fighting in Iraq I call for new daily headlines;  stories about the lives we can and are saving in America by solving healthcare inequities. Please join me. We don’t need medical specialists to heal our communities we need to come together and insist on change.

Riding the Tail of the Boomer Generation

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

50 is the new 30 as confident and fit people might tell you. However, young as they may feel, life at 50 isn’t getting any easier professionally or economically for that cohort. In 2010 media began to notice people in their fifties who suffered layoffs weren’t getting new work or, if they were, it was taking an awfully long time. A New York Times article profiled the problem noting that by 2009 unemployment for the 55+ set was at a record 7.4%.  Age demographics often group 55-64 and 45-54 so it’s a little hard to tell what specifically happens to people 50-59 but, poverty figures for those groups seem to reflect employment problems for 50somethings. In 2010 23% of 55-64 and 24% of 45-54 were living at 200% of the poverty level. 

Those hardships are corroborated by a report published in September now indicating that 4.9 million young boomers (50-59) were at risk of hunger in 2009. That’s a 38% increase over 2007.  Can you visualize 4.9 million people? It’s more than the total population size of Alabama. That report also tells us that the most dramatic spike in food insecurity was with people at or above twice the poverty line which would include those 24% of the 50 somethings mentioned above.  And, if you’re African Americans or identified as Hispanic you were twice as likely to have food insecurities.

People in their fifties who are out of work or food insecure have unique challenges. They’re too young to stop working, ineligible for social security or medicare, and too young or too old for most food relief programs.  They also face a world of dwindling retirement resources, uncertainty in the social security program and disappearing pensions so they will need to work longer.

Having difficulty getting food leads to nutrient deficiencies and is known to compromise health particularly leading to depression, chronic diseases, diabetes and problems with the activities of daily living. Greater medical costs for society result.  I urge government policies and programs that  include people in their 50’s as a way to head off an overwhelming oncoming waste of human resources and hardships for the tail end of our boomer population.

Poverty is bigger than our differences

June 4, 2011 § 3 Comments

This June people across America will celebrate sexual diversity. As visible as gay, bi and transgendered people will be on our streets many are still invisible in Census data. Same sex couples will be counted—-sort of—- but gay, lesbian, and transgendered singles won’t be noted. So it’s hard to tell exactly how poverty and low incomes impact those populations. But poverty is an issue that affects all communities and our nation and the LGBT community is no exception.

We have some idea of the impact for LGB (Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Sexual) people from a 2009 analysis done by the Williams Institute, a think tank specializing in sexual orientation law and policy. Using Census 2000 data and other national surveys the report found that lesbian couples and their families are more likely to be poor then heterosexual families. Nearly 25% of all lesbian and bisexual women are poor compared to an incidence of 19% in heterosexual women. Lesbian couples over 65 are twice as likely to be poor.  In general lesbians experience poverty more often then gay men.

As with national statistics racial difference is reflected in LGB poverty rates. African American same sex couples are 3 times more likely to be poor than white same sex couples.  White gay men have poverty rates of 2.7%, Asian Pacific Islanders 4.5%,  Black gay men are at 14% and Native American men have poverty rates of 19%!

In a 2001 American Health Association survey gay Latino men in LA, Miami, and New York drew a picture of economic hardship. 61% had run out of money to buy basics, 54% were forced to borrow money, and 45% were forced to find a new job at least once in the survey year. The story of economic hardship gets more intense for transgendered communities. A survey in 2006 by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Transgender Law Center found that 59% of transgendered respondents were living in poverty, 9% had no source of income what so ever, and  34% were unemployed.

In June LGBT communities celebrate their identities and take a break from the sobering realities of elevated poverty rates around them. They focus on the hope that we’ll understand one another and not on the bias that’s preventing us from clearly seeing the impacts of challenges they must confront. Maybe you never attended a gay pride celebration or don’t think you know anyone lesbian, gay or transgendered but poverty knows all our communities.  Poverty is a national crisis. It’s bigger than any of our individual differences. Let’s unite to eradicate poverty.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Urban Poverty; the numbers category at ruurbanpoor.