Elderly Americans Hurting

In recent days we have been hearing about layoffs, the financial crisis, stimulus packages and more. In fact, at times the brain feels numb over all of the pain across America. However, in all of this there is one of the most vulnerable segements of our society that often gets overlooked. This is the group of citizens too old to work or look for work. I know that many of us have been in stores and noticed in recent years that more elderly people are working. Some are very elderly. Many aren’t really able to work, but still they must.

There is a lady that I often see at a cafeteria near us. She has been there for several years now and obviously can’t afford not to work. My hat is off to the cafeteria for being open-minded enough to allow her to work instead of kicking her out and she does work hard. Yet, about a year ago this little wisp of a woman had a major heart attack and was out of work for several months. I have to say I really missed seeing her. When she came back I was both happy to see her back and happy to see that she was relatively ‘okay’. I don’t know if that cafeteria enables her to have health insurance or if it is simply the paycheck that she so desperately needs, but I feel bad that she ‘has’ to work. Yet, I’m also glad she has the job although it is nowhere near ‘ideal’ for her physical condition. Life is precious at any age and in almost any physical condition. Life is precious.

According to Elderlaw more and more seniors are having to turn to asking for help to obtain food. It comes down to a choice between life sustaining medicine or food and Social Security never stretches far enough. That’s not the way it’s suppose to be in America… not in the land of opportunity!

The story is the same across the country: the combination of a tough economy, rising food and fuel prices, and strained social services are causing dramatically higher numbers of elderly to seek out free food programs.

In big cities like New York, the numbers showing up for free meals at senior centers is increasing by between 20 to 40 each day, according to Aaron Kesselman, president of the Manhattan Borough Wide Interagency Council on Aging (MBIAC), while the 2009 city budget for elder services is being cut by 6 percent, or approximately $37 million. “This is a huge issue, because those most directly affected by all the proposed cuts are the low-income elderly,” Kesselman said.

In smaller cities, like Seattle, the central food program is feeding 38 percent more elderly than at this time last year.

“We see more seniors coming in than any other demographic,” said Fran Yeatts, executive director of the West Seattle Food Bank, told ElderLawAnswers. “Many of them have lived in this part of the city for a long time. Over the years, house prices have gone up, so property taxes have, too. Then, when food prices started to rise — that hit a lot of elderly people on fixed incomes who were already feeling the strain.”

“Many older people who relied on Social Security and small savings are finding themselves no longer able to get by. We get calls from seniors telling us they can’t afford both to eat and to pay their medication costs. And many of them seem to be taking such a lot of medications.”

Our country doesn’t support our most vulnerable…

even in times of a thriving economy, and in good times and in bad, elderly Americans remain more vulnerable than other age groups to what the government terms “food insecurity.”

What are the elderly to do in a society where adult children often don’t even bother to check on their parents.

“Our waiting lists are getting longer, and yet funds for the elderly budget are being cut all over,” says Malika Robins, executive chef for Senior Connections in Atlanta, Georgia, where 8,000 meals are served to the elderly each week via senior centers and Meals-on-Wheels services. “I can’t understand how we can allow the quality of our elder care to get lower, when what we really need is to generate a better quality of life for seniors, so that they can stay well in their homes. We need to keep them healthy with good nutrition and life-affirming activities. We will need to advocate hard for them to the new Administration.”

It’s time for America to stand up for those who can no longer stand up for themselves. Take a stand. These are the very people who stood up for the underpriviledged in years gone by, who stood up for better education, better roads, a better America. If our country is to retain any self-respect, we can’t neglect our elderly.

~ by citizenjournalistreview on January 28, 2009.

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