SENIOR CITIZENS DOING WITHOUT

Mar 13th, 2012 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Social Security & Medicare

Senior Lifestyle: Doing Without

Millions of senior citizens are learning to do without in this time of economic difficulty.  According to the non-profit Wider Opportunities for Women report, when you take government benefits out, seniors have much less income than we need to survive.

The report, Doing Without: Economic Insecurity and Older Americans, released on March 1, uses the “Elder Index” — an analysis of the average expenses of an elder household — to gauge economic insecurity. Nationwide, the average income for an elderly household, minus government benefits, falls $5,228 short of its expenses — about 28% of the average household budget.

Executive Director Joan Kuriansky said, ““Social Security is already a very modest benefit that leaves many older Americans hard-pressed to cover their basic expenses; Older Americans have been hit by the decline in employer-based pensions and losses in personal retirement plans due to the recession. Another cut to their incomes will threaten the ability of seniors to support themselves independently. With health care costs being a major part of older Americans’ monthly budgets, cuts to Medicare could break the bank for many seniors.”

In Massachusetts, elderly households average a $10,248 income deficit; in less densely populated states like Alaska/Utah/Montana, seniors can almost break even.

Social Security and Medicare are NOT the Problem

A comment on the report in AOL’s Daily Finance says:  “By and large, the Northeast and Southeast — both of which tend to have higher population density and higher general cost of living — are harder places to grow old. On the flip side, the golden years tend to be easier, relatively speaking, in states with lower population densities and lower costs of living — think Alaska, Montana and Utah.”

“So how do elderly households fill the gap between the money they need and the money they bring in? For many, the answer is Medicare and Social Security. According to Wider Opportunities for Women, the group that released the report, 25% of elderly households rely on Social Security for 98% or more of their household income. Put another way, the average household with at least one resident aged 65 or older derives 64.8% of its income from Social Security.”  (AOL Daily Finance)

One of the reasons why there is so much political debate about Social Security and Medicare is that a lot of the federal budget is spent on these two programs that benefit Senior Citizens. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 53% of all money spent on benefits in 2010 went to seniors — $519 billion on Medicare and $689 billion on Social Security.

These huge figures get a lot of attention.  What our representatives in Congress need to realize is that Medicare and Social Security are essential for the survival of many of us seniors. The problems of the deficit won’t be solved by the irrational claims that Social Security and Medicare are destroying the work ethic of our country. That’s just an attempt at scare mongering and attention-getting. In fact the WOW Report says it well:

“Seniors who worked hard for years to build our country and who can least afford to absorb additional expenses should not bear the weight of budget cuts. Cutting Social Security and Medicare is a deeply misguided move that would not only threaten the security of millions of seniors, but also the future of all hard-working Americans. In efforts to raise the debt ceiling, Americans’ top priorities—good jobs, quality education, access to affordable health care and the ability to save for retirement should not be held hostage. This artificial crisis to push a regressive public agenda will, in the process, destroy America’s standing around the globe.”  (Wider Opportunities for Women)



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  1. The children of today have no future, there will be no America for them to inherit. Senoir citizens are making sure of that. My heart aches for children growing up today, $1 of the federal budget is spent on them where $7 is spent on seniors citizens. Why is there no cap on the spending for Medicare like other countries? Of course America is going to go bankrupt when 53% of our budget is spent trying to unnaturally extend the life expectancy of the sector of America that has it so good.

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