ELDER ABUSE: Part 2 - Institutional Abuse Overview
Old Farts - Literally

To Be Old in America in 2012

[NOTE: I know I told you yesterday that there would be a post today from a resident in an assisted living home. That's still coming soon but until then, this today. It's long and will probably bore some of you, but Crabby Old Lady believes it needs to be said.]

If you are old today – let's say 55 and up – and not wealthy (that is, most of us), you live under constant threat of financial disaster. Here is Crabby Old Lady's list of what has happened to elders in the past four years since the 2008 crash:

  1. IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement investments have been decimated; many have never recovered and never will

  2. Home values have dropped by a third or more leaving many with underwater mortgages and in some cases, unfair foreclosures

  3. Millions have been and continue to be laid off from their jobs

  4. Age discrimination means it takes older workers longer to find the next job than any other age group

  5. Many older workers who don't find that next job are forced into early retirement resulting in a lower Social Security Security benefit for life

[Crabby understands that people of all ages are living with brutal financial circumstances but this blog is concerned with elders.]

For many elders, the slightest uptick in food prices, for example, or even a minor emergency can mean choosing between eating and buying prescribed medications.

Those are the current conditions. Let's take a look at some of the threats.

About half the politicians in Congress want to take away or dramatically cut Social Security, Medicare and food stamps among other programs for the poor, disabled and aged. Just as many of them, along with a large number of state governors, want to kill Medicaid which affects elder dual eligibles.

Many of those same elected officials want to raise the retirement age – that is, the age at which full Social Security benefits are allowed – to 70.

Generally, Crabby Old Lady has no objection to people working longer than 66 or 67 but only if they are physically capable so she believes that any legislation raising the retirement age must include accommodation for those whose bodies cannot do it any longer.

Please recall, too, as we have said here many times, that people's bodies age at dramatically different rates so it is not just those who have done heavy physical labor who may not be able to continue working.

With all that in mind, however, there is the elephant in the room, the unspoken Catch-22: they already refuse to allow us work even until we reach the current retirement age.

It's called age discrimination in the workplace. It has always existed but it has become grimly more visible during our four-year recession than in the past.

The average length of unemployment for older workers is at an all-time high — well over a year. On average, it takes someone age 55 or older three months longer to find a job than a younger person.

“These long-term unemployed are disproportionately composed of older workers — who, compared to younger workers, are less likely to lose their jobs, but more likely to have trouble finding re-employment if they are laid off,” reports The New York Times

“Given how far behind these workers have already fallen, it may turn out that many of these Americans will never work again.”

Exactly. Just like me as I've written about here in the past. But I was 63 when I was laid off from my last job. Even though with careful budgeting and belt-tightening I was able to squeak by until I was old enough for full benefits at age 65 and 10 months, I still wound up with a reduced Social Security benefit for not having any income during the last two-and-a-half years until my eligibility.

It's much worse if you are laid off, for example, in your late fifties or early sixties and must scrimp by until age 62 and then take reduced early Social Security benefit. And don't forget that when you do that, you're stuck at the lower figure for the rest of your life. But many have no choice if they enjoy eating.

Speaking of eating, 46.2 million people (nearly one in seven Americans) receive food stamp (SNAP program) aid. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), three million of them are elders.

[By the way, many more elders than the three million are eligible but do not know it. If you believe you or someone you know might be among them, you can find eligibility rules for people age 60 and older here.]

Last week, the House passed a farm bill that cuts $16 billion from the SNAP program while retaining subsidies for corporate farmers. If the bill passes in the Senate, between two and three million people will be thrown off SNAP and 21 million children will not longer qualify for free school lunches.

So one way or another, the people who already stole elders' savings, homes and livelihoods leaving millions in drastically reduced financial circumstances for their old age now seek to further impoverish them.

This is how it is to be old in America today.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Idaho Trip


Comments

I feel as if our country has been hijacked. What's with the people in charge? They seem to become robots, unable to think for themselves. (For instance, only 26 Senators voted in favor of labels on GMOs. I mean, hel-lo? How are those of us who want to avoid them supposed to know how to avoid them? Is this no longer a free country?) I'm really grateful to you for standing up for elders in general. I would go even further though, and suggest Americans need to care for elder citizens in their final years, which may sound like socialism but is the right thing to do.

Ronni,

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that had the GOP Elephant featured along with the words:

"We are the ones who sent your jobs overseas and made you lose your house and IRA and still you vote for us." SUCKERS!

Ronni:
I ran a foundation. I was 52 when the recession struck in f 1992. They sacked me.
Networking and 3,000 resumes failed; I never worked in my field again.
I telemarketed, fund-raised, sold real estate.
I got lucky. A low-level job came with a modest pension. I got Social Security at 65 1/2 and retired at 70.
We live in a society that wallows in greed and destroys its human capital.

I was one of those forced to go on Social Security at the age of 62. Fortunately, I was able to pay off my mortgage or I could not survive.

In addition to all the things you mentioned in your post, Ronni, the cost of everything keeps rising and our small income has to stretch to make ends meet. And they say there is no inflation.

Hello,

I don't know anyone who has not been affected by the "Great Recession". I think we can agree that we are in this together.

However, some seniors will make choices at the polls that will make their lives potentially much more difficult. In that respect we each are making a choice with our vote about the quality of our future lives.

I pray we choose wisely.

I disagree that we live in a society that wallows in greed across the board. I do believe this true of many, especially among the uber rich and many politicians who seem out of touch with the majority of their constituents, but I still believe that there are many more hard-working people who struggle just to maintain a modest life style, and who hope to be able to educate and help their children, and have at least a modest retirement some day. I also see a lot of people, especially the young and not-so-well educated, who seem to have given up striving after the American dream, and have accepted a lesser life.

Ah, I so understand. I was forced to quit after injury and took SS early. I get just over 400 a month. without payments from a small inheritance, I would be on the streets.

My husband G's company outsourced his department, and at age 54 he began hunting for a new job. 894 responses to his applications, 20%, meant that he applied to over 3000 jobs. He was lucky to find one in his field and loves it still.

I just want to throw in one more thing to be crabby about: today in the NY Times Frank Bruni has a noxious column that starts out by taking off on a Silicon Valley twerp - and then claims without evidence that a lot of people have responded to the recession by conning the government and getting on Medicare through claiming disability. I've read a lot about the rise in disability claims -- and I think it is true that some people who might have been employed in a stronger economy have had to jump the hoops to claim help with disabilities. Especially older people, not quite old enough for Social Security and Medicare, but unemployable in the current conditions. This isn't fraud -- it's failure of a weak economy to employ people who could still contribute, even if disabled. Bruni's column really pissed me off.

Store fronts are empty, police and firemen are laid off or asked to risk their lives for minimum wage, and the 1% keep their multiple homes and offshore accounts.

In my wildest dreams of schlogging to a middleclass career (two Master's degrees, faculty position), did I ever think I'd be counting dollars and barely able to have a night out or a small vacation. It's the shits, and many of my friends can't even go to the doctor or have preventative exams. I despise Republicans.

My husband is still working at age 70. He is lucky enough to have skills that rich people need. The only jobs available are ones that serve the elite. If you can't do something for the 1% you are toast. They don't want to pay for your continued existence when it does nothing for them.
Harsh? Maybe, but that's how I see it.

Jan...
I, too, was livid when I read Bruni this morning. There is also this in his column showing his Republican chops by assuming with no argument that Social Security is part of the deficit problem. To wit:

"I’m ceaselessly surprised by how many older people of means push back against necessary changes to Social Security and Medicare. Some of them are grandparents, maybe even doting ones. And there’s a crucial disconnect between their impulse to safeguard their slice of the American pie and the concern they should feel for the crumbs their grandchildren may be left with."

What drives me nuts is that although the Op-Ed page is designed to be opinion and they are all entitled to their opinions, they are not entitled to their own, invented facts.

The Times should be editing these columns for factual errors.

There used to be a notion that a journalist, even a columnist, should have some facts to back up his assertions. Bruni could parrot what he thought was conventional wisdom and feel no obligation to learn anything about his subject.

Most reporters make more of an effort -- at least I think so.

I hear you and I feel the same pain..thank you for the outline..it does help when we realize we are not alone..In addition, AARP is a skam....they give us nothing..sold us out I suspect they were entertained by lobbyists.. They take our membership fees and instead of looking out for us have turned the magazine into a profit marketing magnet which makes them a lot of cash for higher salaries...for the officers.
when our membership expires we will not renew...

Dorothy Stahlnecker

Agree with Dorothy. Have never seen how AARP really helped elders. Ronni, excellent post, couldn't agree more. At 62 I find myself in limbo. Divorced, jobless despite 1000's of resumes and living on a thin edge financially. If anyone told me in 1985 this would be the U.S. I would have laughed. Not laughing and frankly I'm calling the great recession, the Great Depression ll, because that's what it is. Have you ever looked at the net worth of those in Congress? No clue what "real" life is like.

Every day I'm thankful that I have a retirement income that enables me to get by. Even WalMart has cut 1/2 their staff so I probably couldn't even get on there. My late husband used to tell a story of an old man long ago who refused a ride on a wagon that was going to the polls. The people in it were not his party and he said he would rather walk than ride with them. We used to laugh but today I absolutely understand.

This is frightening. I have a family member who worked until the age of 71 as they could not afford to retire any earlier. I think the decision was forced upon them. Now they live on such a restricted budget that some food items like meat are luxuries. I fear malnutrition will set in if they are not super careful (which this very smart person is)

Are we talking about 'Individualism in Overdrive'? Bruni isn't advocating further impoverishment for seniors with limited means; he's addressing American materialism and narcissism by those who have plenty, but refuse to consider the greater good. That segment of our society, which is far more evident than it was 50 years ago, IS a suitable target.

Some days I feel like there is no truth anywhere anymore.

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