Elderly Poverty: Shocking but True and What You can Do About It
Elderly poverty is true and shocking but you hardly notice it, or ignore it. You’re so busy with your own life to give it any attention.
But it is all around you. You see it each time you take a walk or go to your neighborhood convenience store. They are those dirty and bedraggled senior citizens sleeping on street corners, alleys and even subways.
You think they don’t concern you or don’t mind if they live in sub-human conditions. You think your life is already complicated without having to complicate it more by getting into their skins.
You are wrong on all counts. Elderly poverty is a social issue and anything affecting society affects you.
Elderly poverty statistics:
Here are some statistics to make you think twice about elderly poverty…
There are about 6.4 million Americans, aged 65 above, who are living in poverty (U.S. Census Supplemental Poverty Measure). And their number is growing as more boomers retire without adequate financial safety nets.
o About 75 million baby boomers will retire in the coming years. They will exert a tremendous pressure on social security benefits, health care, housing, and other age-related services. All these will affect the benefits you are now enjoying – unless government does tax restructuring;
o In 2006, according to the Center for American Progress, 9.4% of senior citizens were receiving retirement incomes way below the poverty threshold level of $9,669.00/yr for live-alone seniors – that is a measly $26.00/day.
o Afro-Americans bear the brunt of elderly poverty. Though they only comprise 9% of the total elderly population in the U.S., 21% live below the poverty line; Hispanics come in next at 17%, and Asian-Americans, because of strong family ties, come in third at 12%.
Rankings, however, are immaterial because to be poor is to be poor. It is to be deprived of healthy and nutritious food, of proper medical attention, of a roof over your head, of a fair shake of the law.
And it is ironic because after having contributed to the American engine of progress all their lives, they now have nothing but crumbs falling off society’s wealth.
What you can do about it:
Elderly poverty, a rising menace worldwide, is too big and complex a problem for individuals, you and me, to tackle. But in your own small way, you can do something to alleviate its impact. Here are simple things to start with…
1. Don’t contribute to the problem:
You can’t help a neighbor whose house is on fire if yours is also burning. So be sure your finances are in order before getting into the financial affairs of others.
Be sure your budget is in order, your debts updated, and bills are not piling up on your doorstep.
Always remember that charity begins at home.
2. Show empathy:
Nobody likes to live in poverty. The situation they are in is not entirely their fault. Even if it is, the least you can do is to treat them with empathy.
They are human beings who had a bad turn in life. So show them respect. Help if you can help; give them your moral support, not derision. Give them a break if you can.
Don’t be so haughty towards them. It could have been you.
3. Provide assistance:
Give direct financial assistance if you can. This is rather a sensitive issue because people, no matter how bad their financial situation is, spurn dole-outs. They don’t like to appear beggars.
Do it subtly like contributing to a fund to fray medical expenses, or a child’s education. There are several ways of giving without offending the receiving party.
4. Donate food items:
Next time you go for groceries pick up a few items you can donate to a shelter for the homeless, or soup kitchen.
They can go a long way in appeasing hungry elderly stomachs.
5. Donate your old personal belongings:
You must have pairs of shoes, clothing, bed sheets, warmers, etc. stored in your closet for ages. Put them to good use by giving them to others who are in need.
It is better to give than receive, right? Don’t be too selfish. At your age, you many never use them again, anyway.
6. Join a fund-raising drive:
Join a fund-raising community or start one with your circle of friends. Together, you can think of ways to raise funds for the elderly poor.
Initiate a per plate dinner with an invited local celebrity, a cultural show in your community center, sell pastries and cookies, or a fun run.
Not only will you be helping the needy, the sense of accomplishment from such activities is overwhelming.
7. Use social media;
Social media has become the favorite way of cascading and disseminating information. Use it to increase public awareness of the plight of the elderly poor.
Network with other groups involved in helping the poor seniors, or other welfare agencies. You can even use it to raise funds for the same purpose. Many had achieved extraordinary results from social networking sites like Facebook.
Inquire from your church of any activity intended for the elderly poor in your community and volunteer your time and talent.
Or take part in the activities of your community’s shelter or soup kitchens.
Volunteering is good for your physical and mental health. It boosts your self-worth, gives you a sense of accomplishment, gives you purpose.
Elderly poverty is an age-old issue which has never gotten as much attention as now because it is increasing as the world’s population is aging. Society has changed so much since the time when grandpa and grandma were safely looked after by family members.
Due to the drop in birth rates in the past years, elderly people now live alone with no children to look after them. This forces the government to provide the means and resources to help them out.
But just like any other government initiative, it is never enough. This is where you and I can do a lot for them. We can provide the plug to bridge the gap between what they need and what the government can give. It is not that big a plug, but it is better than nothing.
Please help other seniors by sharing this. Better still, subscribe to my newsletter to get a weekly update of the exciting and bittersweet life of a senior.