Our nation is facing a growing number of impoverished seniors who come from at least three populations:
- The poor grown old: people who lived on the margins of economic security all of their lives, but have survived into the senior ranks.
- The “new poor” The changing economy and plunging interest rates has eviscerated pensions, and as AARP reported, for mature adults, unemployment is persistent. These factors make people eligible for publically-funded programs, but without any history of accessing these services, many do not investigate these resources. Lack of information and fear are major obstacles for these “new poor,” but I believe shame is a larger hurdle.
- Caregivers, the less familiar population of current and future financially at-risk seniors
The average caregiver is a working woman in her late fifties who finds her work life threatened by eldercare responsibility. Some routinely come in late, leave early, or decline additional responsibilities and promotions. Others suffer what the industry calls “presenteeism:” their bodies are at work, but their minds are with Grandma. Any of these factors may cause productivity issues that not only limit salaries and opportunity for advancement, but may also threaten job security.
Still other caregivers leave the work force to care for older relatives when the financial, or emotional cost of hired caregivers exceeds their earning potential, or other resources. This choice results in people with pensions that are inadequate to sustain an increasing life expectancy. Since these workers are not yet eligible for Medicare, if Congress dismantles the Affordable Care Act, these caregivers will also be without health insurance.
The National Council on Aging has developed a game-changer. The Economic Check-up is a software program that NCoA developed supported in part, by a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation. Seniors load comprehensive information (without social security numbers, or other data that might risk identity theft,) and the software develops lists of every local, state, and federal program for which the senior may be eligible. Resources include housing, transportation, nutrition, medication, and health. , but there is also information on improving income and even employment, through skill assessment, retraining, and recertification. WOW!
NCoA has impressive data on having been able to raise seniors out of poverty, but I believe the benefits for younger adults could be equally impressive. If caregivers can use this program to stabilize Mom, they may be able to stay in the workforce long enough to stabilize their own retirements. Also, adults planning to retire can input their data, see the face of their own future finances, and make proactive choices to improve their retirement security.
In addition to being in the toolkits of eldercare, healthcare, and social service professionals, I want to see this software in every house of worship in the nation. These congregations hear the first cry for help, and I believe people will feel safer and be more forthcoming with their church communities than with an unfamiliar professional. These programs can be intergenerational, the youth run the computers, and health ministry members help caregivers contact the agencies.
I would like to see a grant application to the Retirement Research Foundation for a pilot project, offering the Economic Checkup in houses of worship.
Visit www.EconomicCheckup.org, or contact NCOA www.ncoa.org to schedule an informational webinar for your organization. Go to www.rrf.org to learn about competitive funding opportunities through the Retirement Research Foundation. RRF funds not-for-profit organizations with projects that improve the lives of seniors. There are several funding initiatives. The website is very user-friendly. Find the funding program that is most appropriate for your organization.
Like and follow Dr. Cheryl Woodson on Facebook. Join me every Wednesday for this blog, Straight Talk by Dr. Cheryl, and every Sunday morning at 8am for a radio program of the same name. My inaugural show was last Sunday. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bold-movers-radio/2015/05/03/straight-talk-with-dr-cheryl