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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Economic insecurity and community efforts to help

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotExecutive Director Roseann MartocciaAn article that ran in The Boston Globe on July 29, 2017, titled, “Many of the state’s elderly residents struggle to pay their bills,” talked about Judi, age 74, who lives in elder housing in Boston. Despite working all her life as a flight attendant and library worker, Judi struggles every month to make ends meet on her limited income of $1,860 per month from Social Security and a small pension. The article describes Judi deciding not to fill and use a new medication for a bladder condition as it would have cost her $55 each month. Judi says she is lucky if she has any money left at the end of each month. 

Judi is among nearly 300,000 people over 65 whose incomes aren’t enough to cover basic necessities – food, utilities and healthcare-related expenses (using the 2016 Elder Economic Security Index). Elders like Judi are among the 60% of single older adults in the state who have no reserve after covering essential living expenses each month. Among older couples, nearly 30% fall below the index’s target value. While 19% of older persons in Massachusetts who live alone fall below the poverty line, many more are in the position of not making enough on which to live. Though they may not qualify for public benefits, their financial situation is strained because of the high cost of living in the Commonwealth. 

Governor Baker has put a think tank of 24 members to work as the Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts. The Council will develop a plan to promote healthy aging in Massachusetts, and to achieve the goal of making the Commonwealth the most age-friendly state for people of all ages. Older adults are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population and will make up 23% of the Commonwealth’s population by 2035. The Council’s recommendations may address a broad range of issues including current practices that support healthy aging, how to improve public awareness of and access to services for older adults and caregivers, and how to leverage innovation and technology to support aging in communities.  

At a recent listening session of the Council held in Western Mass, there was a wide variety of areas addressed by presenters, including needs related to: affordable housing; workforce capacity; transportation; technology and lifelong learning as two solutions to combat social isolation; as well as the specific needs of persons with dementia, grandparents raising grandchildren, veterans, the deaf and hard of hearing and people with autism who are living longer. 

There are models emerging in communities to work to offer supports to residents including the “Village” model and age- and/or dementia-friendly communities. It will take creativity and innovation to meet the needs of many in our communities. 

Congressman McGovern held a field hearing in Greenfield in early August, and one person’s comments regarding health care rang true when she stated, “Balancing the budget on the backs of those who are disabled, poor and elderly… It’s appalling.”