How Seniors Can Get Out of Poverty

When she was younger, Eleanor assumed she’d be living comfortably on a combination of her husband’s pension and social security when she was 75. Instead, she relies on the assistance programs, and the local food bank and Meals on Wheels program for meals. Eleanor has to budget every penny, and if it weren’t for help, she wouldn’t be able to cover the costs of medication, utilities, groceries, and housing. Her husband—who’s gone now—lost his job before he was fully vested in his pension, and her social security checks don’t cover her living expenses.

Eleanor is just one of the millions of Americans over age 65 who are living in poverty. According to the National Council on Aging, in the U.S. more than 25 million people over age 60 are deemed “economically insecure.” That means they struggle with rising health care costs, don’t have adequate access to food, lack transportation, among other measures. But there’s hope—and people who want to help—seniors living in poverty. Between retraining and other assistance programs, there are ways to make life a little more comfortable when you’re in your Golden Years.

How to Get Back to Work

More Americans age 65 and older are working now than in the past 55 years. Some of the reasons for the growing numbers of people working later in life are that they’re healthier and living longer, or they like their jobs, so they stay in the workforce. But many can’t afford to retire, and it can be hard to find work when you’re over 65. According to the National Council on Aging, 43 percent of single Social Security recipients depend on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income, so they need to supplement their income with work if they can.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program helps low-income, unemployed people age 55 and older find jobs. First, the AARP Foundation matches job-seekers with public agencies and nonprofits to help them earn a modest income while increasing their skills and building self-confidence. They also may get services and skills training. This program often leads to permanent jobs.

Back to Work 50+, a program from the AARP Foundation, helps older Americans advance in the workforce, regain employment and build financial resiliency and capability, so they don’t fall into poverty.

The EconomicCheckUp program, from the National Council on Aging, is a comprehensive, free online service. It helps older adults find jobs, and also reduce debt, cut spending and use their home equity.

If they’re able to work, seniors around the country can find organizations willing to help them gain new job skills and find permanent employment.

Where to find more assistance

For many seniors, working into retirement years may not be an option. For them, there are programs to help them find economic stability. The Reverse Mortgage Counseling program offers counseling on reverse mortgages to older homeowners. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners to stay in their homes while using the equity. AARP’s Drive to End Hunger Campaign has been feeding seniors who face food insecurity and finding permanent solutions to hunger since 2011. The Economic Security Initiative helps seniors build economic security and stability.The Center for Benefits Access connects seniors with the benefits for which they’re eligible.

And in communities around the country, organizations like Meals on Wheels and Community Action are working to help seniors living in poverty with food drives and other programs. As part of Older Americans Month, Community Action Services and Food Bank in Utah is using the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive May 12 to collect items for seniors. It’s focusing on items seniors need most—things like canned meats and beans, peanut butter, soups, and other shelf-stable meals. Mail carriers will distribute bags and collect donations, which Community Action will distribute to senior centers.

Local and national programs aimed at low-income seniors help ease financial stress for older Americans.

There’s hope for seniors living in poverty. With help from job retraining and other programs, seniors can find the help they need for more economic stability.


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