In 2030, there will be more seniors in Cuyahoga County than children for the first time in history. Many of these seniors will face economic difficulties. In fact, 22% of seniors in Cleveland live in poverty.
The majority of older adults are not in the workforce and live on a fixed income. This puts seniors at a greater risk of living below the poverty line. Other factors contributing to this increased risk include health care costs, unaffordable housing and debts that have compounded over their lifetime.
Those who have not saved enough are particularly vulnerable. Not surprisingly, as seniors continue to age, the risk of poverty increases. More Americans over the age of 75 live in poverty than those between the ages of 65-74.
Older women are more likely to live in poverty than older men. Women experience a lifetime of lower earnings due to wage discrimination, absence from the labor force for periods of time to care for children, and lower wage work. This results in less money saved and lower annual Social Security payments for women. Older Black and Latina women fare worse than white women.
Aging Black and Latinx adults experience poverty at higher rates than white seniors. Due to racial wage gaps, Black and Latinx seniors have a lower income during working years resulting in fewer resources later in life. In addition, Black and Latinx Americans are less likely to be homeowners and have the added expense of rent. Nearly 55,000 seniors live in unaffordable housing in Cuyahoga County, meaning that their housing expenses consume 30% or more of their income. Housing costs eat up too much of many seniors’ budgets.
Older adults living in poverty often have difficulty meeting their basic needs. This makes them especially vulnerable when an unexpected financial expense occurs, because they typically do not have sufficient savings or the ability to work more to make up for losses. This causes seniors to make dangerous decisions such as skipping meals or choosing between medication and paying their utility bills. The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding this problem for seniors as social isolation prohibits their access to needed resources.