Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1st Thoughts From A Board Member

Martha Holstein, an Elder Economic Security Initiative Board Member, from Chicago's Health & Medicine Policy Research Group shares her thoughts today on why elder economic security is part of a greater need of solidarity and security across generations.

Divided We Fall: Economic Security and Intergenerational Solidarity

Amidst all the current economic turmoil Social Security and Medicare are there—the only guaranteed source of income one can’t outlive and health care that no one can take away. These guarantees are critical for older people and for their families. If these programs were weakened, needs would have to be met by someone and that someone is most likely one’s sons and daughters. The entire family would lose. We need to think of old age entitlements as family benefits, a contribution to the family commons and absolutely essential to mitigating threats to the health and well-being of the entire family. The family commons implies that we need to share our common goods with each of us not taking more than we need—and sometimes perhaps taking less than we need. Intergeneration solidarity rather than intergenerational equity

There is another reason to commit to intergenerational solidarity. Research makes it very clear that continuity in life circumstances is prevalent. Rather than these circumstances improving in old age, the older we get the more disadvantaged we become. Known as “cumulative disadvantage” it suggests how powerfully our family’s social and economic status, our education and our related opportunities are not easily overcome. Today, this is particularly unsettling since we know that young men are earning less than their fathers did at the same age. This statistic is apt to worsen as we see the results of the current economic downturn. The foretelling about the future condition of the aged, to be documented in the next generation’s Elder Standard, is a potent reason to act now to make sure that American’s younger families have a better shot at economic security. It is really for all of us!

1 comment:

Martha Holstein said...

Let me add a personal note to my post. While working on economic security issues as a professional, I am also an aging woman. Like so many of you, I have worked steadily and devotedly for many years, while raising my daughters as a single parent. I have played by the rules, so to say--and the very idea that one day I might retire (to do some writing I have planned on for many years) is ever more elusive. I have worked in the not-for-profit sector and do not have a pension; my savings and social security is what I have. I know that I am better off than most but without continued work I would be in serious jeopardy. So far, I;ve been lucky but I know that many, many women do not have the options that I have. if I panic, imagine what it must be like for those who have almost no choices. Without economic security, autonomy is a myth and so is decency and dignity. We must protect the fundamental commitment to social security and so better so that women who are caregivers, faced other drop out years, and met other obligations as women in our society can not live on the edge--or topple over the edge--just at that moment when a bit of treasured time should be theirs.