Spotlight Exclusives

More Evidence Points to Growing Poverty Among the Elderly

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A few weeks ago, we posted an OOTS on poverty among the elderly. Now, the AARP Public Policy Institute has come out with a new report that sheds more light on the challenges facing low-income older Americans. The report, Older Americans in Poverty: A Snapshot, reveals some startling facts about the hardships facing the elderly:

  • 3.7 million older Americans (9.7 percent of adults over age 65) do not have sufficient income to meet their basic expenses.
  • Social Security benefits serve as the main source of income for 59 percent of older adults in poverty, and only 16.5 percent of poor elders have any savings in a retirement account.
  • Nearly twice as many poor older adults report being in poor health (21 percent) as the general elderly population (11 percent).

Older Americans in Poverty also adds to the growing echo chamber of researchers, policymakers and advocates arguing for a new federal poverty measure to supplement the current one. The report concludes that the current measure does not accurately calculate poverty among older Americans.

The argument aligns with poverty and income data from New York City, which, after implementing an alternative poverty measure based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, deemed a larger share of the city۪s elderly population as poor. In fact, an additional 13.9 percent of New Yorker۪s ages 65 and older were considered poor in 2006 under this alternative measure that accounted for out-of-pocket medical expenses and work-related expenses. The findings were noted by Mark Levitan, director of poverty research at the city۪s Center for Economic Opportunity, in a recent webinar co-sponsored by Spotlight.

As the AARP Public Policy Institute report and New York City۪s effort show, a significant portion of older Americans are finding it difficult to make ends meet. As we continue to put a spotlight on the hardship confronting millions of older Americans, we hope that decision makers will take note of these findings and take steps to reduce poverty among the elderly.

Posted by Mike and Shelley


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn۪t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and its impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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