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Many Seniors Can’t Afford To Retire With Dignity, Initiative Says

Resource type: News

Older Americans Report |

In reality, more than 1 in 10 seniors live in poverty, says new measure. What must older Americans really spend to buy the bare necessities? Much more than many policymakers and others realize, says a new initiative that aims to increase awareness about the number of elders living in poverty – and the program may be coming to your state soon. The initiative – the Elder Economic Security Initiative – hopes to reveal that there’s a gap between federal poverty measures and seniors’ actual expenses. The project’s cornerstone is the Elder Index, a cost-calculating tool created to give a realistic, geographically based measure of income adequacy. Created by the not-for-profit Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute of the University of Massachusetts Boston, the tool can adjust costs to reflect the needs of specific living situations. “The retirement where you get a gold watch and move to Florida just isn’t the norm anymore,” according to James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging. “The sad truth is that of 37.3 million Americans over age 65, nearly 10 percent are living in poverty…[and] the Elder Index tells us that this is likely just the tip of the iceberg. The statistics we are used to quoting are likely not describing the actual state of poverty among America’s seniors.” Get real: The Elder Index measures how much income a senior requires to adequately meet his or her basic needs, without public or private assistance, Joan Kuriansky, WOW’s executive director tells Older Americans Report. “There are many older Americans who are in the technical sense ‘not poor’ because they live above the Federal Poverty Line, but they still struggle to make ends meet,” she explains. States on board: Already, the project has been adopted by Massachusetts, California, and Pennsylvania – and Illinois and Wisconsin are signing on in June. In the coming year, the program is set to expand to Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and Minnesota. With the support of The Atlantic Philanthropies, WOW will expand the project to a total of 20 states while continuing to advance policies and programs on a national level.