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In Brief

The American dream of retirement as the “golden years” has been badly tarnished for millions of today’s seniors. One in three older adults lives in or on the edge of poverty, and three in four cope with multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis. The recession has hit these seniors hard, and a lifetime of work has turned into a daily struggle to stay healthy and make ends meet. Every day is a challenge to pay for food, medicine, and a place to live.

For most older adults, good health ensures independence, security, and productivity as they age. Yet millions struggle every day with health challenges that can severely impact their quality of life.

  • Approximately 91% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 73% have at least two. Four chronic diseases–heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes–cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.
  • Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on health care, yet only 1% of health dollars are spent on public efforts to improve overall health. (National Governors Association)
  • Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
  • In 2000, the total direct cost of all fall injuries for people aged 65+ exceeded $19 billion, or $28.2 billion in 2010 dollars.
  • One in four older adults experiences some mental disorder, including depression, anxiety disorders, and dementia. This number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030.

Economic Security
Over 20 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure–living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL). For these older adults, one major adverse life event can change today’s realities into tomorrow’s troubles.

  • Older adults aged 65+ depend on Social Security for all or most of their monthly income, and 19% live on less than $16,335 annually for a single person, or 150% of FPL.
  • In 2008, the average credit card debt among adults aged 65+ was $10,235. Commonly cited reasons for debt were to pay necessary living expenses and medical costs.
  • Approximately 13% of U.S. households with an elderly member were categorized as food insecure in 2009. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • Americans aged 50+ represent 28% of all delinquencies and foreclosures in the current economic crisis. (AARP)
  • The unemployment rate for job seekers aged 55+ has more than doubled since December 2007. (Urban Institute)
  • Older workers who become unemployed spend more time searching for work and are unemployed for a longer time–11 months on average in July 2010. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The good news is that there are proven and successful programs that can help older adults improve their own health and economic security. These programs empower seniors with the information and skills to manage their own health, prevent falls, find benefits, access job training, and more. But funding for these programs is a constant challenge as budgets shrink. These worthy programs need financial support to reach the ever-growing population of older adults who can benefit from them.

Overview provided by the National Council on Aging

Articles and other content come from a variety of sources and are not intended to reflect the views of Foundation Source or to recommend any particular nonprofit organization.

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