Super Committee: Don’t Leave Older Women and Their Families Behind!

Times are tough for hardworking Americans of all ages. But while it’s imperative that Congress look for a balanced approach (including revenues) to deficit reduction, it also needs to protect low- and middle-income elders who rely on programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, the Senior Community Service Employment Program and more.

As hard-working people see the availability of pensions dwindle, many find themselves wholly reliant on Social Security in their retirement years. Social Security is the only source of income for one out of five elders [PDF], and women are more than 60 percent more likely to live in poverty in their senior years than men are. Due to pay equity issues, the occupational segregation of women in low-wage jobs, and cycling in and out of the workforce due to taking care of children and family members, women often find themselves with a Social Security payment that falls short of economic security.

The Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) provides a clear picture of the plight faced by women living on average Social Security income. The Elder Index measures the income that older adults require to maintain their independence in the community and meet their daily costs of living. The average annual Social Security income for all women provides a single elder homeowner [PDF] without a mortgage just under 70 percent of the income required to achieve economic security. If she rents her home, her average annual Social Security income will provide only 55 percent of the income required to achieve economic security.

Without employer-based retirement savings income such as a pension and/or housing and health-care subsidies, the average annual Social Security income alone–although a critical economic security foundation–leaves women struggling to choose among necessities such as heating oil, prescription drugs and food. To close the income gap, many elders must also draw on state and federal supports, including Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Medicare Part D (prescription drug) Low Income Subsidy (LIS). As Congress looks for ways to reduce the deficit, it is important that they protect all these programs that low- and middle-income Americans rely on to make ends meet in their later years.

Cross-posted from the Elder Economic Security Initiative blog. Maggie Flowers is field manager of the Elder Economic Security Initiative at Wider Opportunities for Women.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Photo from Flickr user Ed Yourdon under Creative Commons 2.0.