As if the court challenges to the health reform law or new threats to Social Security were not enough to cause concern among advocates for low income older adults, new poverty figures confirm that the picture for the elderly poor is even more bleak than most people know. This means that our efforts to work to protect the rights of the elderly poor are needed now more than ever.
According to the newly released Supplemental Poverty Measure, part of a Census effort to revise poverty benchmarks and that now includes things like out of pocket medical expense and taxes, 16% of older adults live in poverty. This means that the proportion of seniors is higher than the proportion of all Americans who live in poverty and is consistent with other studies that show the poverty rate for older people is the highest of any age group, even higher than that for children. The plight of poor women is particularly striking: 43% of Hispanic women who live alone, and 34% of black women who live alone, live in poverty, according to the new measure.
In 2011, thanks to major support from two national foundations (Atlantic Philanthropies and The SCAN Foundation), we will be able to do more work on health reform as it affects the dignity, independence and health care for low income older adults. In addition, a grant from Social Security Works will help us protect and strengthen Social Security on behalf of those who depend on the program for all or most of their income. Similarly, continued foundation support helps the Federal Rights Project defend health reform from state challenges that seek to overturn it based on questionable constitutional interpretations.