Elderly Poverty in America Reaching Crisis Levels, Demands Urgent Action
Economists are sounding the alarm over the skyrocketing poverty rates among America's older populations.
The U.S. Census Bureau released new data regarding income, poverty and health insurance. The press release contained bleak findings, such as median household incomes falling by 2.3% from 2021 to 2022. Median income was $76,330 in 2021 and it fell to $74,580 in 2022, which is the most recent data.
However, the most shocking discovery concerned America's oldest population. More Americans aged 65 and older have slipped into poverty. The current percentage of impoverished seniors has been dubbed "unacceptable."
Poverty is defined by an individual who is unable to perform the most basic necessities. The Health and Human Services updated its poverty measure, which found a family of four would be considered impoverished if its annual income, before taxes, was $30,000 or less.
The poverty threshold for an individual is an annual gross income of $14,580 before taxes. The latest Census Data found that in Utica, roughly 24 percent of families are living in poverty.
It's estimated roughly 9,082 of Utica's residents are over the age of 65.
Per the latest round of data, roughly 8 percent of families living in Herkimer County are in poverty, as compared to the 10.1 percent of Oneida County families.
Further research found that 9.2 percent of Lewis County families are impoverished, while 9.8 of Onondaga County families are struggling. In Madison County, that number is 6.9 percent.
That said, the National Council on Aging is sounding alarm that the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau proves seniors make up a significant portion of those numbers.
In fact, the country could be on the brink of a crisis if this trend continues.
14% of the nation's seniors live in poverty
For three years in a row, more Americans ages 65 and older are living in poverty—robbed of their ability to age with dignity. This is simply unacceptable in a country as rich as ours. Nor does it bode well for the 4.4 million Americans turning 65 next year.
The NCOA found that poverty rates among seniors skyrocketed since the pandemic. The rate back in 2020 was 9.5 percent. The number grew to 10.7 percent in 2021 until it exploded in 2022, with a rate of 14.1 percent.
That wasn't the only troubling number.
The NCOA also found poverty rates in children increased significantly: from the historic low of 5.2 percent reported back in 2021 to an alarming high of 12.4 percent in 2022.
How can we fix this?
The NCOA says the government needs to step up to stop our most vulnerable from falling behind. The organization hailed Social Security as a life-saving measure that has already moved 20.1 million older adults out of poverty.
Moreover, the SSI program elevated 1.6 million seniors from poverty.
The NCOA also highlighted these programs for being critical in the fight to end poverty in America: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Supplemental Security Income.
Additionally, the organization credited housing subsidies as also making a dent in the numbers.
We have the programs in place to alleviate poverty. Now we need the political will and resources to do so.
NCOA also says more needs to be done to connect vulnerable seniors with these government-funded programs.
It's estimated that 5 million older Americans alone are eligible for SNAP, which amounts to $6.3 billion a year.
Overall, we estimate that eligible older adults are leaving $30 billion on the table annually because they're not enrolled in public benefits.
To tackle the issue head on, the NCOA and 6 other national organizations that focus on health are demanding action from lawmakers in the House and Senate.
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They are petitioning for increased, permanent funding for these programs. It's estimated $75 million is needed to expand benefits outreach and enrollment efforts.
The NCOA says if this measure comes to pass, it will help stop the skyrocketing poverty rates and protect Americans of all ages.