Washington, D.C. (March 31, 2011) – More than 13 million older adults are considered economically insecure, living on just $21,780 a year or less. Every day, these seniors, and millions of Boomers, have to choose whether to pay for food, housing, utilities, or out-of-pocket for medication costs. They live one bad break, one accident, or one layoff away from economic disaster.
To spotlight their struggles—and call for change—the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is launching One Away, an innovative, national advocacy campaign that uses video to allow older adults to tell their own stories, in their own words. One Away videos and stories are available at OneAway.org.
“We are already receiving real stories of seniors who are struggling,” said Sandra Nathan, senior vice president for economic security at NCOA. “It’s clear that vulnerable older adults are in desperate need of help and want to be heard.”
National Poll Shows Depth of Problem
Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults aged 18+ said they or an older adult they know is struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy, according to the new One Away poll. A majority (62%) also knows that one out of three older adults relies on Social Security for over 90% of their income.
Commissioned by NCOA and conducted online in March 2011 by Harris Interactive, the One Away poll of 2,526 adults aged 18 and older also found that 80% of adults know that older workers who lose a job are more likely to face very long-term unemployment, up to 99 weeks or more.
In spite of this harsh reality, the House of Representatives recently passed legislation to cut funding by 64% for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), our nation’s only jobs program designed to help older Americans in need. The cut would result in the loss of over 83,000 jobs.
At the same time, some economic challenges facing older adults are less well known to the public:
Fewer than 1 out of 5 people (19%) are aware of the scale of senior credit card debt, which averages $10,000.“The struggles seniors are facing are all too often overlooked or dismissed,” said James Firman, president and CEO of NCOA. “This campaign is about elevating their voices, and we need Congress to catch up to the realities of their constituents and develop concrete solutions to make life better for our seniors.”
Only 34% are aware that people over age 65 make up the fastest-growing segment of the population seeking bankruptcy protection.
Almost three-quarters (72%) either underestimated or did not know that nearly 6 million seniors are at risk of going hungry every day.
As part of the One Away campaign, NCOA has also published A Blueprint for Increasing the Economic Security of Older Adults: Reauthorizing the Older Americans Act. The report outlines specific recommendations to improve elders’ economic security through reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), which is scheduled to occur this year.
Funding for the One Away campaign was provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies.