Letters to the Editor

Poverty can hit the elderly harder

The Nov. 11 article, United Way study finds working families struggling to get by, highlighted the issue of poverty among families and those of working age. But poverty among older adults — many of whom can no longer work or generate income — can be even more challenging.

The high cost of living in our region makes it particularly difficult for older adults on fixed incomes.

Almost 30 percent of adults age 60-plus have incomes below 125 percent of the poverty line in Miami-Dade County — that’s $14,587 for a single person, far below the $18,624 cost of living estimate in the Rutgers study. One in three elders pays more than 30 percent of their monthly income toward housing, and many older adult homeowners who have paid off their mortgage find they are unable to keep up with associated costs like taxes, insurance and repairs.

Poverty forces older adults to make difficult choices, such as choosing between paying for doctor visits and medications, and other necessities like food and transportation. A 2012 survey by the Department of Elder Affairs found that almost 17 percent of older adults in Miami-Dade said they don’t get enough to eat. Nearly 80,000 local elders (16 percent) received a SNAP benefit — food stamps — last year, and funding from the Alliance for Aging provides a daily meal to more than 13,000 elders, with 8,000 more on a wait list.

Poverty creates a cluster of risk factors that can lead to the premature institutionalization of older adults: unsafe living environments, inadequate nutrition, declining health, isolation, depression, and disability. The Alliance for Aging provides home and community based services that can help elders in poverty stay in their own home and avoid much more expensive nursing-home placement.

If you are or know an older adult in need, call the Elder Helpline at 1-800-96ELDER or 305-670-HELP (4357).

Max B. Rothman, president and CEO, Alliance for Aging, Inc., Miami