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‘Index’ says independent elderly are falling short

Resource type: News

The Olympian | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

This article, originally published on 28 March 2011, provides an overview of the Elder Economic Security Index for Washington, which is part Atlantic grantee Wider Opportunities for Women’s Elder Economic Security Initiative™ that seeks to build economic security for older adults through a multi-pronged approach that includes organising, advocacy and research. 

Now we know: It costs $21,492 a year for an elderly renter to live independently in Washington state. It’s easier to get by in Spokane, much tougher in Seattle. But for many, retirement incomes fall short of meeting what they need to remain independent.

That’s what the new “Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index” shows. The national Wider Opportunities for Women advocacy group and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts made their index findings public yesterday in this report.

The report’s release was timed to show why proposed cuts to heating and other programs at the federal and state level are ill-advised.

In a news release, WOW said:

Housing costs account for a significant percentage of seniors’ expenses. Renters allocate between 30 to 40% of their income to housing costs, making housing assistance programs critical to their ability to achieve economic security. Under a bill passed by the US House of Representatives, H.R.1, Washington could lose more than $30 million in funding for affordable housing and access to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps some seniors pay their heating bills, could be curtailed. “The data show clearly that elder Washington residents are struggling to make ends meet. Investments for housing, heat, prescription and medical assistance are already falling short, and further cuts would be devastating to Washington seniors,” said Stacy Sanders, Director of the Elder Economic Security Initiative at WOW. … For example, older adults who own a home in Spokane County have the lowest Elder Index at $16,032 a year and those elders paying mortgages in King County are at the highest end of the Elder Index at $32,148 a year. Seniors with chronic health conditions that require costly long-term supports and services face even greater financial challenges. Low-income elders who rely on Medicaid health services, home care options and services provided through the Senior Citizens Services Act to stay at home risk losing their independence with proposed state budget cuts. “Washington seniors are struggling to make ends meet in every corner of the state,” said Roy Walker, Chair, Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging. “The Elder Index provides a stark picture of the additional hardships seniors will endure if housing and energy assistance are cut by Congress and if community long-term supports and services are cut by the state legislature.”

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Wider Opportunities for Women is an Atlantic grantee.