Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Super Committee, Don’t Leave Behind Older Women and Their Families

Times are tough for hardworking Americans of all ages. That’s why it’s imperative that Congress look for a balanced approach (including revenues) to deficit reduction, while protecting low- and middle-income elders who rely on programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, the Senior Community Service Employment Program and more.

As hard-working people see the availability of pensions dwindle, many find themselves wholly reliant on Social Security in their retirement years. Social Security is the only source of income for 1 out of 5 elders, and women are more than 60% more likely to live in poverty in their senior years than men are. Due to pay equity issues, the occupational segregation of women in low-wage jobs, and cycling in and out of the workforce due to take care of children and family members, women often find themselves with a Social Security payment that falls short of economic security.

The Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) provides a clear picture of the plight faced by women living on average Social Security income. The Elder Index measures the income that older adults require to maintain their independence in the community and meet their daily costs of living. The average annual Social Security income for all women provides a single elder homeowner without a mortgage just under 70% of the income required to achieve economic security. If she rents her home, her average annual Social Security income will provide only 55% of the income required to achieve economic security.

Without employer-based retirement savings income, such as a pension, and/or housing and health care subsidies, the average annual Social Security income alone, although a critical economic security foundation, leaves women struggling to choose among necessities such as heating oil, prescription drugs and food. To close the income gap many elders must draw on state and federal supports including Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Medicare Part D (prescription drug) Low Income Subsidy (LIS). As Congress looks for ways to reduce the deficit, it is important that they protect the programs that low- and middle-income Americans rely on to make ends meet in their later years.

Maggie Flowers
Field Manager
Elder Economic Security Initiative