More than 10 million people over 50 live in poverty in the U.S., and more than 37 million are just one life event away from slipping into it. AARP Foundation wants to change those numbers.
The foundation, which is AARP’s charitable affiliate, is working to end senior poverty by helping vulnerable older adults build economic opportunity and social connectedness. Among its points of focus:
- Teaching job seekers the skills they need to compete for today’s in-demand positions
- Developing strategies to help make communities affordable, livable and healthy
- Helping older adults build savings
- Making it easier for low-income consumers to develop healthy eating habits
- Harnessing new and existing methods and technologies to alleviate the underlying issues that can cause loneliness and isolation
- Helping older adults connect — and stay connected — to their communities
“We are living longer lives, which is something to celebrate. But the disturbing truth is that for many people, longer lives are also poorer lives,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation. She notes that 1 in 5 people in America will be 65 or older by 2030, adding, “Addressing senior poverty is something that can’t wait. This societal issue is with us already, and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t act.”
Senior poverty has a profound impact that goes far beyond those immediately affected. It also is expensive for society as a whole, as it drives up health care costs, puts increased pressure on social safety net programs and fragments communities. It often forces low-income older adults to choose between food and medical care, and it’s expensive to their families, who frequently provide unpaid care. When seniors struggle to meet their basic needs, they are at greater risk of being affected by preventable or treatable health conditions, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, heart attack and depression.
Senior poverty also can have a strong impact on social connectedness, leading to isolation. Research indicates that isolation and loneliness may cause dramatic decreases in physical health, mental well-being and overall quality of life, with one study showing that the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Of the 30 million people 65 or older who are enrolled in Medicare, approximately 4 million are socially isolated, according to an AARP Public Policy Institute study. This costs the federal government almost $7 billion in additional spending every year.
AARP Foundation’s work on social connectedness and economic opportunity is supported by strong legal advocacy. Foundation attorneys advocate to keep older people connected with their loved ones, and cover issues that range from fair housing and age discrimination to consumer fraud, employment benefits and pension rights.
“Legal advocacy allows us to make sure older adults have a voice in the courts,” said Ryerson. “Attorneys with AARP Foundation fight every day to challenge discrimination and protect seniors from injustice.”
AARP Foundation is a public charity that raises funds for its own programs and services and grants funds to other nonprofits to build and restore hope. Of every dollar generated by the foundation, 81 cents goes toward programs and services that help low-income older adults. Individual contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible, and the foundation meets all 20 standards for charity accountability from the Better Business Bureau.
To learn more about how you can help AARP Foundation end senior poverty, visit www.aarpfoundation.org.