Get The Facts

August 15th, 2010


Almost 75% of single Social Security recipients aged 65+ depend on Social Security for all or most of their monthly income. (Social Security Administration)

The Federal Poverty Level does not account for the rising cost of living seniors experience as they age, which can include illness, loss of a spouse, or care for a disabled spouse, adult dependent child, or grandchildren.

More accurate measures of economic wellbeing—including Wider Opportunities for Women’s Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy’s Senior Financial Stability Index—show millions of older adults struggling to meet their monthly expenses, even though they’re not considered “poor” because they live above the Federal Poverty Level, which is $11,490 for a single elder.

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Income & Employment

The average older adults receiving Supplemental Security Income receives just $423 each month. (Social Security Administration)

Older women typically receive about $4,000 less annually in Social Security than older men due to lower lifetime earnings, time taken off for caregiving, occupational segregation into lower wage work, and other issues. Older women of color fare even worse. (Wider Opportunities for Women)

By January 2012, older workers displaced in the years following the recession were half as likely to have regained employment as the nationwide average. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Older workers of color are most at risk for unemployment, with older African American men twice as likely to be unemployed as older white men. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Debt & Savings

One-third of senior households has no money left over each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses. (Institute on Assets and Social Policy)

In 2012, the average credit card debt among adults aged 65+ was $9,283. (Demos)

14% of adults aged 65+ face retirement with negative net worth, contributing to a rise in bankruptcies that has grown at the fastest pace ever due to high credit card debt and debts against their home. (Aging and Bankruptcy, U.S. Courts)

Health & Nutrition

  • Over 27% of older adults living in poverty were at risk for hunger in 2011. (National Foundation to End Senior Hunger)
  • Only one-third of eligible older adults (age 60+) are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).
  • The average senior in good health needs to spend about #381/month to cover basic health needs. This includes Medicare premiums, supplemental coverage, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs. This figure increases to $511/month for a senior in poor health. (Gerontology Institute)
  • A 1993 study by the Urban Institute estimated that nearly 5 million elderly Americans (age 60 and over) experience “food insecurity,” meaning they do not get enough to eat.


  • As of December 2011, 16% of older homeowners owed more on their house than it was worth. (AARP)
  • A majority of older adults have unsustainable housing costs, with 59% of older renters and 33% of homeowners with mortgages spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. (AARP)
  • 44% of African American and 37% of Latino seniors either rent or have no home equity. (Institute on Assets & Social Policy)

Mental Health

  • Depression affects 1 in 5 older people living in communities and 2 in 5 living in care homes (Psychiatry in the Elderly).
  • The rate of suicide is highest among older adults compared to any other age group-and the suicide rate for persons 85 years and older is the highest of all-twice the overall national rate.Sad lonely pensive old senior woman
  • The prognosis for treating the elderly who are clinically depressed is good (80% can be effectively treated). The problem is that elderly are rarely treated for clinical depression accounting for only 7% of all inpatient mental health services (American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry).

The Impact on Caregivers Who Take Care of Elderly

  • Caregiving will preoccupy American families well into the 21st century as the 76 million baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans. Currently, nearly one out of every four U.S. households provides care to a relative or friend aged 50 or older; informal, unpaid care from family, friends, or neighbors is the main source of help for the majority of older people with disabilities living in the community (AAGP).
  • The average age of these primary caregivers is over 60 years of age and over 75 percent of them are women. Studies show that caregiver’s experience a sense of burden and estimated 46 percent are clinically depressed (Cohen et al, 1990, Gallagher, 1985).
  • Up to half of the primary caregivers caring for someone with Alzheimer’s develop significant psychological distress (Schultz et al, 1995).