I heard something on the radio that a recent poll found that rising rates of inequality is the most alarming problem according to —. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the poll sample. Most Americans? Most liberals? Most seniors?
For me, stressing about inequality absolutely keeps me up at night. It’s scary to think about long-term economic impact if current trends continue. On a more immediate level, I worry about rising poverty, particularly for seniors. Hunger and homelessness is increasing. By a lot. Senior homelessness will increase by 100% in 2050. But no one talks about this.
Last week, I was fortunate to meet a group of people who are talking. Solano County is way ahead of the country in addressing senior poverty. The county Board of Supervisors commissioned a task force dedicated to this issue alone. At an event last week, the task force released their recommendations for immediate action to alleviate the impact of poverty.
In presenting one set of recommendations, a poised senior volunteer spoke to the group. After being introduced as Margret, she laughed and told a story that growing up, upon learning that she shared her name with a young princess of England, she vowed never to go by Margaret again, and everyone knows her as Maggie.
She went on to present the task force’s recommendations on utilizing volunteers. Then she shared, “this matters. It matters to seniors like me. I’m a poor senior.” Maggie is an impressive speaker, and with that statement, the room listened with rapt attention. She continued to explain that volunteering provides seniors with a sense of self-worth, particularly important when poverty robs them of their self-esteem.
Maggie explained that she never thought she would be a poor senior. She hates the guilt she feels when she borrows money from her 89 year old mother for a plane ticket to visit her in a nursing home. She feels equally guilty that she needs her daughter to pay for her gas when she visits her in LA.
Maggie is unique in her grace and bravery in telling her story. But her story is far too common. One in five senior women living alone lives in poverty. They live on less than $12,000 a year. As a recent Bay Area transplant, I honestly cannot wrap my mind around how a senior woman, with high out-of-pocket medical expenses, can possibly live a life with basic necessities on $12,000 a year.
A few weeks ago, four other brave women from Solano County opened up about the reality of growing old and poor in America: http://vimeo.com/m/109467513. They are courageous and honest and their story deserves to be heard.