Seniors Battle Against Money and Time: Their Struggle For Health

Out of 39.6 million or 13% of people are 65 and older in the United States. One third of senior households have little to no financial buffer in the event of an unexpected health related illness, traumatic event.

One of the biggest worries shared among seniors is "Outliving" one’s own resources and falling into poverty. With the faltering economy and budget cutting, seniors already had to confront dwindling bank accounts. The financial stress could strengthen its grip and deteriorate further if social security cuts are made state researchers.

According to a report "From Bad to Worse: Senior Economic Insecurity On the Rise," produced jointly by the Heller School's Institute on Assets and Social Policy and the public policy research and advocacy organization DEMOS. Found that seniors have few resources and little time to plan for a fulfilling retirement.

In only four years, the number of seniors at risk of outliving their resources increased by nearly 2 million households. Using the Senior Financial Stability Index, economic insecurity among senior households increased by one-third, rising from 27% to 36% from 2004 to 2008. This steady and dramatic increase was in progress even before the full force of the Great recession hit.

While the effects of the recession hit all demographic groups, the economic security of seniors took a bigger blow than others. In addition to the one out of every three seniors who are economically insecure, 40% of senior households are financially vulnerable - neither secure nor insecure according to the Senior Financial Security Index.

Thus, three-quarters of all senior households have little or no buffer against financial ruin should they be faced with an unexpected illness or other traumatic life event.Households of color and senior single woman fall into 50% of those facing financial insecurity, unsure of how to finance the most basic necessities.

The report has a couple proposals to remedy this pending crisis:

  • Strenghening social security for vulnerable groups, such as low-income earners and those with sporadic attachment to the labor market due to caregiving and other responsibilities.
  • Supporting a strong Community living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS Act) to enable working adults the opportunity to plan for future long-term care needs, such as in-home services, adult day health or institutional care.

"it's simply a crime that in our wealthy and vibrant nation 36% of seniors live in a state of uncertainty, unsure of whether they can afford basic necessities," say Tatjana Meschede, research director at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and co-author of the report.

"Instead of working to fix this crisis, the debate in Washington is dominated by those who argue that the only way to reduce the deficit is by dramatically altering Medicare and Social Security," she said. "these reckless proposals will only worsen current trends and further undermine the economic prospects of future seniors."

Jennifer Wheary, Demos senior fellow, say millions of seniors in America live day to day; this is a multigenerational problem, not a senior problem."

Published in Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.