We’ve found some interesting information about help for low income seniors. At Low Income Relief, we serve a lot of seniors who are struggling with rising rents, high inflation and low fixed incomes.
Overall, there are 7 things you need to know about low income seniors in this country.
1) Around 1 in 10 seniors lives in poverty.
The official poverty rate for seniors in the United States is around 9%, which is 9 in 100. That’s close to one in 10.
That doesn’t really paint the whole picture, though. Most of our poverty statistics are based on the official poverty guidelines, which are based on food consumption in 1955 and food costs in 1961, indexed to inflation. It doesn’t really take into account any noncash benefits, taxes, increased housing costs, or medical expenses. It’s really an incomplete picture.
If you use the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which does account for a lot of those things, the actual poverty rate for low income seniors is closer to 13% which is more than one in ten.
2) Poverty gets worse as you get older.
Maybe it’s due to higher medical costs or depleted savings, but the poverty rate gets worse with age. In a 2021 study by the Congressional Research Service, it was discovered that people age 80 and older experienced the highest poverty rates, with over 11% of people living in poverty.
The poverty rate was slightly lower for people between the ages of 75-79, and again lower for those ages 70-74. The poverty rate was the worst for women age 80 and older.
3) Those who are single struggle the most.
Women who had divorced, were widowed or had never married had significantly higher poverty rates. Never-married men also had significantly high poverty rates.
4) Social Security and SSI account for 90% of the total money received by low income seniors.
It’s no secret that Social Security is a key program that offers help for low income seniors. It is hard to overstate the importance of these programs. The Social Security administration has stated that 90% of people age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits and these benefits represent 30% of the income of the elderly.
In fact, the Congressional Research Service determined that the poverty rate for individuals over the age of 65 would increase by a shocking 32% if Social Security benefits were excluded from their income calculations. Comparatively, excluding food stamps or housing subsidies or SSI would increase the poverty rate by only 1%.
Social Security is critical for low income seniors but it often doesn’t pay enough.
5) The average Social Security payment is just $1,657 per month as of January 2022.
The average Social Security payment is just $1,657 per month and that’s not a lot.
According to rent.com, the average rent for a studio apartment in the United States is $1,691. That’s more than the average Social Security payment… which means that on average, seniors don’t have enough for rent let alone other necessities of life.
Let’s look at some more averages, shall we?
The average cost of food for one person is $342.11. But the average senior lives in a household with three people, so the actual average food costs for their household size is over $1,000.
According to Energy Star, the average monthly utility bill is $171. Although seniors are often eligible for discounts on their utilities, many do not receive that assistance.
Households led by someone age 65 or older spend an average of $555 on health care as well. This could include medications, appointments, and transportation to appointments, as well as other health-related expenses.
Just between the average rent, food, utilities, and medical expenses for one person, we’re looking at $2,759… that’s over $1,000 more per month than the average Social Security payment.
Is it any wonder why so many seniors live in poverty?
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6) The government thinks food stamps help.
After researching this in depth, I was amazed by how many times the government or reporters seem to think senior poverty is OK because food stamps offer help for low income seniors. This is unbelievable to us at Low Income Relief because we hear from so many seniors who cannot afford housing, cannot afford medicine, cannot afford meals… and only get $20 in food stamps. That’s not okay!
But do you know what’s REALLY not okay? The National Council on Aging states that 3 out of every 5 seniors who are eligible for food stamps are not getting them. That’s an estimated FIVE MILLION PEOPLE who are not getting the benefits they could be getting.
Of those who do get food stamps, only 16% are making the most of their food stamps by utilizing the medical expense deduction. It is expected that a lot of seniors could get a lot more food stamps if they used this but many don’t know it exists.
7) The Congressional Research Service found that medical expenses are a major factor in senior poverty.
The Congressional Research Service found that medical expenses have a significant impact on senior poverty. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that seniors pay an average of $6,668 per year on out-of-pocket health care, which is about $555 per month.
There are some things that provide medical help for low income seniors. Medicare obviously can offset a lot of medical expenses, but many seniors don’t know how to get the best plan. For that, I recommend contacting your local Area Agency on Aging. They often have someone available who specializes in Medicare and can help you find the best plan for your situation.
Low income seniors may also be able to get dual-enrollment in Medicaid, which offers free limited health care coverage.
For prescriptions, I recommend a tool like GoodRX. Our family has used this to drastically reduce our out-of-pocket costs for meds.
We need more help for low income seniors.
We have found a lot of help for low income seniors but we also know that low income seniors need more help than they are getting. Obviously, Social Security is just not enough. If you support a Social Security increase, please reach out to your elected officials and let them know.