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Sunday, December 17, 2023

Burned Out Boomers Part 11 - Late Boomers

image: retirement gift
 
Due to changes in the retirement landscape in recent decades, Late Boomers (who are now nearing retirement) would be expected to have less wealth from traditional pensions, Social Security, and housing, but higher 401(k)/IRA assets compared to Mid Boomers at the same age. Strikingly, though, Late Boomers have seen a drop in their 401(k)/IRA assets. The questions are why is their 401(k)/IRA wealth lower and what do the patterns mean for younger cohorts.
- Why do late boomers have so little wealth and how will Gen-Zers fare, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, May 2023

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Younger baby boomers face deep shortfall in retirement savings

By Nathan Place
Financial Planning
November 8, 2023

Not all boomers are OK. When it comes to retirement savings, younger baby boomers have significantly less than their older counterparts.

That’s according to a study by the CENTER FOR RETIREMENT RESEARCH AT BOSTON COLLEGE, which uncovered a striking difference between “late boomers” - those born in 1960 to 1965 - and “early boomers,” born in 1948 to 1953. By the time they reached their 50s, the study found, the late boomers had 19% less retirement wealth than the early ones did at the same age.

What could explain this wealth gap? Several demographic and economic shifts contributed, the study said, but the main reason was the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

“The late boomers were hit really hard by the Great Recession,” said Anqi Chen, one of the study’s co-authors. “It was the earnings lost during the recession that really set them back.”

Why was the downturn more damaging for late boomers? It’s a matter of life stages. Typically, Chen said, Americans reach their peak earning years in their 40s and early 50s. But for those at the younger end of the baby boom, those were exactly the years when the economy was in crisis - in 2007 to 2009, late boomers were somewhere between 42 and 49 years old.

And that’s not even including the economy’s long, slow recovery. Unemployment in the U.S. didn’t return to pre-recession levels UNTIL DECEMBER 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the meantime, late boomers took a huge hit to their nest eggs. Just as their careers were gaining steam, many of them lost their jobs. At age 50, only 77% of late boomers were working, compared with 96% of early boomers at the same age. That meant they lost access to retirement plans, sometimes for years and in many cases, they never got it back.

“What was interesting was that not only did you see that drop, but it didn’t pick back up later,” Chen said. “A lot of people lost their jobs, and then they had a hard time reentering the workforce.”

In addition, something else set this age group apart. Unlike their predecessors, late boomers worked and saved at a time when PENSIONS WERE NO LONGER THE DOMINANT RETIREMENT PLAN. Instead, they had defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s and IRAs ח and that meant their retirement income was not guaranteed.

This daunting combination is familiar to many financial planners with late boomer clients.

“Late boomers had a double whammy between the Great Recession and the shift to 401(k) plans,” said Jay Zigmont, founder of CHILDFREE WEALTH in Water Valley, Mississippi. “As the first group to truly embrace 401(k)s as their primary retirement savings, this can be very dangerous. Not working during peak retirement saving years can set people back years on their retirement.”

The irony is that at the beginning of their careers, late boomers were actually doing better on their retirement savings than early boomers had done. At age 44, the average early boomer had just $7,011 in their 401(k) or IRA. At the same age, the average late boomer had $29,355.

But in the years that followed, this gap dramatically flipped. By age 56, the average early boomer had $75,378 in their retirement plan, while the average late boomer had only $37,464 - less than half as much.

“When we look at their average 401(k) and IRA balances at younger ages, we see that late boomers were actually ahead of other cohorts,” Chen said. “And then you see that drop.”

To calculate boomers’ total retirement savings, the CRR added the balances of these defined-contribution retirement plans together with those of defined-benefit plans, like pensions, and with Social Security benefits.

All told, the average late boomer ended up with a retirement nest egg of $279,686. The average early boomer, by contrast, had $345,648 - a 19% difference.

The study examined several potential reasons for this. Demographically, late boomers are a more diverse group than early boomers, and BLACK AND HISANIC HOUSEHOLDS TEND TO HAVE LESS WEALTH THAN WHITE ONES.

But as it turned out, this did not explain the savings gap. In fact, among Black and Hispanic workers, retirement wealth was actually higher for late boomers than it was for early ones - the opposite of the overall trend.

The real reason, Chen said, was crystal clear.

“The Great Recession is the culprit here,” she said.

What can late boomers do about it? In many cases, they’ll need to do more than other generations to catch up on their savings with financial advisors’ help.

“Chances are that we are going to have to help our clients plan on working longer or saving more now to make up for the deficit,” Zigmont said. “We need to start having those conversations now and helping our clients to make the hard choices.”

Another option is to change one’s retirement plans to cut costs.

“If they live in a place with a high cost of living - especially housing - then they could consider moving somewhere cheaper,” said Ron Strobel, founder of RETURE SENSIBLY in Meridian, Ohio. “That could help shore up their retirement savings quickly.”

And in the case of someone who sold their assets during the worst of the Great Recession, it’s important to get back on track 0 no matter how painful it may be.

“Bite the bullet, stick to your long-term plan, and get invested again,” said Noah Damsky, co-founder of MARINA WEALTH ADVISORS in Los Angeles. “This will ensure you have as successful a future as possible.”

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Posted by Elvis on 12/17/23 •
Section News • Section Personal
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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Scapegoating Seniors

image: class warfare
 
Harari peels back the curtain masking transhumanisms Wizard of Oz promises, suggesting that even before the singularity, robotics and machine intelligence will make the masses into a new “useless class.”
- Hacking Humanity, April 2023

Are Seniors Driving the US Budget Deficit?
US officials blame the elderly for the blunders of politicians.

By Andrew Moran
Liberty Nation
November 27, 2023

Washington might be finding a new scapegoat to explain why the federal budget deficit is ballooning. The beauty of macroeconomics is that you can manipulate every data point to craft a narrative. Economist Paul Krugman recently employed this tactic to convince the public that the inflation threat is over. A chorus of policymakers are now emulating the method to tell the American people that it is not politicians affinity for spending like drunken sailors causing the US deficit but rather senior citizens.

Budget Deficit Excuses

The US government kicked off the fiscal year 2024 by running a higher-than-expected budget deficit of $67 BILLION. It was a sign of things to come as many economists anticipate more of the same over the next 12 months, primarily as the Treasury floods the financial markets with trillions in bonds. But while congressional spending is spiraling out of control and tax revenues are pointing to a slowing economy, elected representatives and academia are looking to pass the blame to seniors.

The Joint Economic Committee recently held a hearing that assessed how aging Americans and a waning workforce are “drivers of our deficit.” Testimony delivered to lawmakers noted that the population is expected to become older over the next 30 years as fewer people have babies and mortality rates have worsened in the last decade. Because individuals not working are net negative average contributors to the government, older adults are nothing more than a drain on the system, the witnesses claimed.

Social Security, Medicare, income security, and health continue to lead federal outlays. In October, the US government spent $245 billion on these programs. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation recently projected that significant health care programs will account for larger shares of federal spending, rising 78% by 2030. Additionally, it is forecast that federal spending on health care will represent more than 10% of GDP in 2053.

Cost growth - a term to describe the increase in program or project costs over time - is anticipated to expand over the next three decades, particularly if above-trend inflation persists for the next few years. The conservative-leaning think tank noted that “it still remains that healthcare costs, adjusted for demographic changes, are projected to outpace economic growth in the federal healthcare system.”

Overall, as seniors represent more of the national population and fewer young people have families, there will inevitably be some sacrifices. One of these in the near future will be cuts to Social Security benefits. The retirement system is based on a Ponzi scheme, requiring todays workers to cover the cost of current retirees. When it was first launched, the worker-to-retiree ratio was close to 50:1. Today, the figure is about 3:1, and projections show that it will be 1.95:1 by 2050. Observers concede that this is an unsustainable trend, meaning that many reforms are required, whether raising the eligibility age for the current generation of participants in the rat race or means testing.

Without tremendous changes to how Washington functions, the budget deficit will only trend higher. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that trillion-dollar annual shortfalls are the new normal. As the national debt approaches $50 trillion and the US economy slows, paying for the red ink will cost more, which means fewer funds are transferred to programs designed for retirees.

Solutions?

The only way for the country to keep the entire system intact is to grow the economy to unprecedented levels and expand the population. Of course, even these proposals are not foolproof amid the ineptitude that roams throughout every corridor inside the Swamp.

First, even if growing the economy by 5% or 7% a year is accomplished, and the government enjoys more tax receipts, politicians will blow the revenue injections on more blunders and boondoggles at home and abroad. The prudent move would be paying down the national debt and cutting spending. But common sense is not so common in the nations capital.

Second, it might be politically unpopular for specific segments of the public, but unless there is a substantial baby boom, the only chance for a considerable increase in the population is through legal immigration. This way, a 20-year-old working adult from Mexico or Nigeria will pay into the system to ensure a 69-year-old from Arkansas or New Hampshire keeps receiving benefits and accessing programs they paid into all those years.

A Bold Strategy

A recent Bank of America report noted that those born before 1965 fuel growth because they consume more year-over-year than younger Americans. A 4.9% GDP growth rate? Thank Uncle John! Of course, this does not mean they are insulated from the ramifications of an inflationary environment and poor government decisions.

Politicians have promised too much for decades to ensure they were elected and re-elected. In the last 20 years, the government has spent trillions of dollars on foreign wars, adding to the astronomical national debt.  The pandemic- and post-pandemic eras resulted in Republicans and Democrats breaking the economy, causing skyrocketing inflation, something that older Americans are more vulnerable to because they live on fixed incomes.  Moreover, inflation is exacerbating the fiscal calamity gripping the nation’s capital, causing the government to spend more funds they do not have on benefits.  With interest rates climbing to their highest levels in 22 years, debt servicing is now the second-largest budgetary item, and this will be the norm until a sharp recession forces the Federal Reserve to engage in another round of quantitative easing.

Looking ahead, the United States has a 50% chance of doom and 90% of gloom. So, can lawmakers place the blame on America’s seniors? That’s a bold strategy. Let’s see if it pays off.

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Posted by Elvis on 11/29/23 •
Section Dying America • Section Personal
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Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Surviving Suicide

relaxing on train tracks
 
Fear, anger, shame, sadness. These are just some of the emotions I experienced in the immediate aftermath of my SUICIDE ATTEMPT. The days, weeks, months and even years following an attempt can look so very different for everyone. This is just a small window into one survivor’s personal experience.
- A Suicide Survivor’s Story
 
[P]eople who went through “post-traumatic growth” after life-events such as serious illness, divorce or the loss of a job, as well as near-death experiences. Initially, most of them experienced a DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL, where their previous values were thrown into question, and life ceased to have any meaning. After this, they went through a phase of spiritual searching, trying to make sense of what had happened to them, and find new values. And finally, once they had found new spiritual principles to live by, they entered a phase of “spiritual integration,” when they applied these new principles.
- Psychological Healing
 
When my mother fell to her knees crying SIX YEARS AGO after I told her I can’t afford a plane ticket to visit her anymore - I went in the garage, hooked up a hose to the car’s tailpipe, sat in the front seat with it, turned on the engine, shut it off a few seconds later, and chickened out.
- Lost All Hope

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I’m with the JAPANESE.  Suicide is a moral and honorable way to step away from a lousy, miserable life that turned south.  After awhile the pain can get get so bad, that even your loved ones find it hard to deal with, and you wind up pulling them down with you.

Because of CATALYTIC COVERTERS, inhaling car exhaust may not make enough carbon monoxide to guaranty death.  Maybe LAYING DOWN ON TRAIN TRACKS is a better idea.

How many things can be more painful than a failed suicide attempt without a NADIR EXPERIENCE, epiphany or some other TRANSFORMATIVE EVENT after?

The article below makes it seems not too many.  Are they serious? 

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Surviving a Suicide Attempt

By the Psychology Today Staff

Suicide attempts are significantly more common than completed suicides. In 2019, for example, the CDC REPORTED that in the U.S., there were 47,500 completed suicides compared to 1.4 million attempts - and while both of these numbers are likely underreported, they suggest that less than 5 percent of suicide attempts are fatal.

Those who attempt suicide and survive often require significant support afterward, and should seek mental healthcare if they are able. But the good news is that while some who have attempted suicide continue to struggle with suicidal thoughts, the majority of those who attempt suicide will not attempt suicide again; overall, the CDC reports that more than 90 percent of those who survive a suicide attempt will not go on to die by suicide.

The Aftermath of Attempted Suicide

Most suicide attempts are non-fatal, and most people who attempt suicide do not go on to attempt again. But that doesn’t mean that surviving a suicide attempt will immediately solve the issues that first drove the person to make an attempt on their own life. Understanding the potential emotional aftermath of an attempt - and being aware that anyone who attempted suicide once may still be at risk - is necessary for helping survivors get mentally well and protecting them from future harm.

How do survivors usually feel after a suicide attempt?

The emotions that follow a suicide attempt can vary widely - from relief and hopefulness to sadness, anger, or regret. Some suicide survivors report feeling immediate second thoughts after the attempt, followed by an intense feeling of relief when they realized they’d survived. Some feel as if they’ve been given a new lease on life, and are able to return to their lives with a greater sense of purpose and gratitude; others report feeling as if a burden has been lifted - especially if they had been keeping their mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts secret from their loved ones - or as if they’ve been “snapped out” of their despair.

But sadly, such feelings aren’t universal. Some who survive a suicide attempt report feeling disappointed, ashamed, empty, or even more depressed than they were before. Although some evidence suggests that such negative feelings will dissipate for the majority of suicide attempt survivors, they should be heeded if present, as they may indicate that the individual is still at risk of suicidal thoughts or future suicidal behaviors. While anyone who has attempted suicide should seek mental healthcare in the immediate aftermath, it is especially imperative for those who continue to feel predominantly negative or who are having thoughts of a future attempt.

Are people who survived a suicide attempt still at risk?

They can be. While many people who attempted suicide go on to live happy, fulfilling lives, previous suicide attempts are known RISK FACTORS for future attempts. Thus, its important for anyone who has attempted suicide in the past, and their loved ones, to pay attention to their mental well-being and seek immediate help when thoughts of suicide resurface.

How many suicide attempt survivors attempt suicide again at a later time?

Most people who attempt suicide - approximately 70 percent, according to some studies - will never attempt suicide again. Of those who do attempt suicide again, most will survive. Studies have estimated that anywhere from 5 to 13 percent of those who attempt suicide will later go on to die by it.

What can be done to better the lives of suicide attempt survivors?

Despite the relative prevalence of non-fatal suicide attempts, survivors are often left out of conversations around suicide, and their well-being post-attempt has not been the subject of a significant amount of research. In order to IMPROVE THE LIFE OF SUICIDE ATTEMPT SURVIVORS and to reduce their risk of later death by suicide, researchers suggest an increased focus on their mental state after an attempt - with a particular focus on identifying the factors that promote well-being and resilience.

Important, too, is a better understanding of what differentiates those who go on to attempt again and those who don’t, along with the emotional and social strategies that can best help individuals cope. Psychological flexibility, for example, is theorized to help survivors move forward after the attempt, rather than ruminating on it. If such theories are held up in research, treatment approaches that foster psychological flexibility - both before and after an attempt - may be valuable to explore.

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Posted by Elvis on 11/08/23 •
Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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Monday, July 17, 2023

Burned Out Boomers Part 10 - Senior Homelessness

image: senior homelessness

Housing and homelessness resources

The NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS (NCH) is a nationwide network dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. NCH is a nonprofit made up of currently or formerly unhoused individuals, activists, and community and faith-based service providers. The coalition works locally to help communities along with advocating for legislation at the federal level. If you need help, visit THIS DIRECTORY for resources in your community. If you would like to donate or help, click HERE.

The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT offers several housing services for seniors. The government site provides links to affordable housing programs and resource locators.

CATHOLIC CHARITIES USA is a nonprofit founded over a century ago by church members committed to helping people experiencing homelessness. In 2021, Catholic Charities agencies offered 1.9 million nights of emergency shelter and created permanent housing for more than 34,000 families, seniors, veterans and others. If you are in need of local help or services, visit their AGENCY LOCATOR MAP.

The NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS is a nonprofit devoted to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States. The organization focuses on researching and analyzing poverty data to improve federal policies. They also offer guides and training for shelters and housing providers. If you would like to support this work, click HERE to donate or click HERE for other ways to help.

- Ryan Thomas

‘It’s so scary’: More and more seniors are becoming homeless. Here’s why.

By Anita Snow
Associated Press
April 11, 2022

Karla Finocchio’s slide into homelessness began when she split with her partner of 18 years and temporarily moved in with a cousin.

The 55-year-old planned to use her $800-a-month disability check to get an apartment after back surgery. But she soon was sleeping in her old pickup protected by her German Shepherd mix Scrappy, unable to afford housing in Phoenix, where median monthly rents soared 33% during the coronavirus pandemic to over $1,220 for a one-bedroom, according to ApartmentList.com.

Finocchio is one face of America’s graying homeless population, a rapidly expanding group of destitute and desperate people 50 and older suddenly without a permanent home after a job loss, divorce, family death or health crisis during a pandemic.

“We’re seeing a huge boom in senior homelessness,” said Kendra Hendry, a caseworker at Arizona’s largest shelter, where older people make up about 30% of those staying there. “These are not necessarily people who have mental illness or substance abuse problems. They are people being pushed into the streets by rising rents.”

Academics project their numbers will nearly triple over the next decade, challenging policymakers from Los Angeles to New York to imagine new ideas for sheltering the last of the baby boomers as they get older, sicker and less able to pay spiraling rents. Advocates say much more housing is needed, especially for extremely low-income people.

Navigating sidewalks in wheelchairs and walkers, the aging homeless have medical ages greater than their years, with mobility, cognitive and chronic problems like diabetes. Many contracted COVID-19 or couldn’t work because of pandemic restrictions.

“It’s so scary,” said Finocchio, her green eyes clouding with tears while sitting on the cushioned seat of her rolling walker. “I don’t want to be on the street in a wheelchair and living in a tent.”

It was Finocchio’s first time being homeless. She’s now at Ozanam Manor, a transitional shelter the Society of St. Vincent de Paul runs in Phoenix for people 50 and up seeking permanent housing.

At the 60-bed shelter, Finocchio sleeps in a college-style women’s dorm, with a single bed and small desk where she displays Scrappy’s photo. The dog with perky black ears is staying with Finocchio’s brother.

‘I’d always worked.. .. And then all of a sudden things went downhill’

A stroke started 67-year-old Army veteran Lovia Primous on his downward spiral, costing him his job and forcing him to sleep in his Honda Accord. He was referred to the transitional shelter after recovering from COVID-19.

“Life has been hard,” said Primous, who grew up in a once-segregated African American neighborhood of south Phoenix. “I’m just trying to stay positive.”

Cardelia Corley ended up on the streets of Los Angeles County after the hours at her telemarketing job were cut.

Now 65, Corley said she was surprised to meet so many others who were also working, including a teacher and a nurse who lost her home following an illness.

“I’d always worked, been successful, put my kid through college,” the single mother said. “And then all of a sudden things went downhill.”

Corley traveled all night aboard buses and rode commuter trains to catch a catnap.

“And then I would go to Union Station downtown and wash up in the bathroom,” said Corley. She recently moved into a small East Hollywood apartment with help from The People Concern, a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in its 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report the share of homeless people 50 and over in emergency shelters or transitional housing jumped from 22.9% in 2007 to 33.8% in 2017. More precise and recent nationwide figures aren’t available because HUD has since changed the methodology in the reports and lumps older people in with all adults over 25.

A 2019 study of aging homeless people led by the University of Pennsylvania drew on 30 years of census data to project the U.S. population of people 65 and older experiencing homelessness will nearly triple from 40,000 to 106,000 by 2030, resulting in a public health crisis as their age-related medical problems multiply.

Dr. Margot Kushel, a physician who directs the Center for Vulnerable Populations at the University of California, San Francisco, said her research in Oakland on how homelessness affects health has shown nearly half of the tens of thousands of older homeless people in the U.S. are on the streets for the first time.

“We are seeing that retirement is no longer the golden dream,” said Kushel. “A lot of the working poor are destined to retire onto the streets.”

That’s especially true of younger baby boomers, now in their late 50s to late 60s, who don’t have pensions or 401(k) accounts. About half of both women and men ages 55 to 66 have no retirement savings, according to the census.

Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers now number over 70 million, the census shows. With the oldest boomers in their mid-70s, all will hit age 65 by 2030.

The aged homeless also tend to have smaller Social Security checks after years working off the books. A third of some 900 older homeless people in Phoenix said in a recent survey they have no income at all.

Teresa Smith, CEO of the San Diego nonprofit Dreams for Change, said she’s also noticed the homeless population is trending older. The group operates two safe parking lots for people living in cars.

Susan, who stayed at one lot, spoke only if her last name wasn’t used because of the stigma surrounding homelessness.

The 63-year-old had kidney cancer while caring for her mother, then lost their two-bedroom apartment after her mom died. The cancer is now in remission.

Susan slept in her car with her dog at one of the gated parking lots that provide a bathroom, showers and a shared refrigerator and microwave.

She was stunned to see a man in his 80s living in a car there, calling it “just wrong.”

But residents enjoyed the community, grilling meals together and even surprising one in their group with a birthday cake.

Dreams for Change recently helped Susan get a one-bedroom apartment with a housing voucher after months of waiting.

With a washer and dryer, patio, dishwasher and bathtub, “I feel like I’m at the Ritz,” she said.

Donald Whitehead Jr., executive director of the Washington-based advocacy group National Coalition for the Homeless, said that seeing older people sleep in cars and abandoned buildings should worry everyone.

“We now accept these things that we would have been outraged about just 20 years ago,” said Whitehead.

Whitehead said Black, Latino and Indigenous people who came of age in the 1980s amid recession and high unemployment rates are disproportionately represented among the homeless.

Many nearing retirement never got well-paying jobs and didn’t buy homes because of discriminatory real estate practices.

“So many of us didn’t put money into retirement programs, thinking that Social Security was going to take care of us,” said Rudy Soliz, 63, operations director for Justa Center, which offers meals, showers, a mail drop and other services to the aged homeless in Phoenix.

The average monthly Social Security retirement payment as of December was $1,658. Many older homeless people have much smaller checks because they worked fewer years or earned less than others.

People 65 and over with limited resources and who didn’t work enough to earn retirement benefits may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income of $841 a month.

Finocchio said limited contributions were made for her into Social Security and Medicare because most of her jobs were off the books in telephone sales or watering office plants.

“The programs approved by Congress to prevent destitution among the elderly and the disabled are not working,” said Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who led the 2019 study of the aging homeless in New York, Boston and Los Angeles County. “And the problem is only going to get worse.”

Jennifer Molinsky, project director for the Aging Society Program at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, agreed the federal government must do more to ensure older Americans are better housed.

“The younger boomers were hit especially hard in the Great Recession, many losing their homes close to retirement,” Molinsky said.

‘We need more dignified, safer and comfortable places for our seniors’

Longer-term shelters specifically for older people are helping get some off the streets at least temporarily.

The Arizona Department of Housing last year provided a $7.5 million block grant for the state’s largest shelter to buy an old hotel to temporarily house up to 170 older people without a place to stay. The city of Phoenix kicked in $4 million for renovations.

CEO Lisa Glow of Central Arizona Shelter Services, which runs the state’s biggest shelter in downtown Phoenix, said the hotel is expected to open by year’s end.

Residents will stay around 90 days while caseworkers help find permanent housing

“We need more dignified, safer and comfortable places for our seniors,” said Glow, noting that physical limitations make it difficult for older people at the 500-bed shelter downtown.

Nestor Castro, 67, was luckier than many who lose permanent homes.

Castro was in his late 50s living in New York when his mother died and he was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers, losing their apartment. He initially stayed with his sister in Boston, then for more than three years at a YMCA in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Just before last Christmas, Castro got a permanent subsidized apartment through Hearth Inc., a Boston nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness among older adults. Residents pay 30% of their income to stay in one if Hearth’s 228 units.

Castro pays with part of his Social Security check and a part-time job. He also volunteers at a food pantry and a nonprofit that assists people with housing.

“Housing is a big problem around here because they are building luxury apartments that no one can afford,” he said. “A place down the street is $3,068 a month for a studio.”

Hearth Inc. CEO Mark Hinderlie said far more housing needs to be built and made affordable for the aged, especially now as the numbers of graying homeless people surge.

“It’s cheaper to house people than leave them homeless,” Hinderlie said. “You have to rethink what housing can be.”

Janie Har in Marin County, California, and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

SOURCE

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More seniors are becoming homeless, and experts say the trend is likely to worsen

By Hannah Grabenstein
PBS News Hour Nation
March 3, 2023

MEMPHIS, Tenn.  On a chilly January morning, Tony Thomas stopped by a small house with the hopes of picking up some breakfast and coffee.

That Thursday, dozens of people were milling around in near-freezing weather in the backyard of Manna House, a nonprofit serving the local unhoused population. They waited for showers, clothes or hygiene kits, which included toothpaste, lotion, socks and hand warmers. Others ate or sipped coffee with powdered creamer and sugar. Most tried to keep warm, including Thomas, who wasn’t wearing gloves.

At 50, Thomas and many of the other people at Manna House, are part of a growing cohort of homeless older Americans, though he is on the younger side of that trend. As baby boomers age into senior citizens, a series of recessions and the lack of a strong social safety net have pushed more and more elderly people into homelessness - a number thats only expected to rise.

Thomas said he had had a relatively normal life in Memphis. He was born in the city and moved back after getting a cooking certificate in North Carolina. He has two grown children, who live out of state, and he had a good job as a chef at a restaurant in a Memphis suburb. But after pleading guilty to aggravated assault in 2016, he served six years in prison, upending his life.

When he was released in Jan. 2022, he was 49 years old and everything had changed. A felony conviction made it nearly impossible for him to find work, and many of the people he could have stayed with had died while he was incarcerated.

A year later, Thomas is still homeless, he told the PBS NewsHour.

There is no current federal data on homelessness disaggregated by age, except for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s YEARLY REPORTS, which differentiate between youth, considered age 25 and younger, and adults.

But experts in homelessness note that the average age of sample unhoused populations on community levels has risen over the past four decades.

Thomas’ grown daughter lives many hours south in Alabama and has suggested her father stay with her, but he doesn’t want to impose on her family. Plus, he said, he worries about unpredictable Alabama weather, like tornadoes and hurricanes.

Though Thomas carries nearly all his belongings in a small backpack and regularly sleeps on the street, hes devoted to his neatness, shaving his graying beard regularly and keeping his skin moisturized with donated lotion. The fleece he wears under a well-maintained leather jacket matches his ear warmers, and his sneakers are a bright, clean blue - his favorite color.

At Manna House, co-founder and co-director Peter Gathje serves as many people as possible during their limited hours, often seeing the same crowd Monday and Thursday mornings for breakfast, showers and warmth, and Monday evenings for takeaway dinners. The other days of the week, unhoused people rely on other nonprofits for food or supplies, guests at Manna House told the NewsHour.

Gathje said he’s seen the average age of his guests increase over the 17 years the organization has been open.

|Some of that might just be that everybody who was on the streets when they were 40 or 50 is still on the streets. But we do see new people. And of course a lot of our guests who were in their 40s and 50s are dead,” Gathje said.

A problem on the rise

In 2004, Dr. Margot Kushel, director of UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations and Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, and her colleagues compared the populations of homeless individuals over time using historical data from studies of people in San Francisco with HIV and AIDS. They discovered that among unhoused single adults without children, the percentage older than 50 had INCREASED FROM 11 PERCENT in 1990 to around 37 percent in 2003.

In subsequent studies, Kushe’s research group found that number has risen to about 50 percent today.

Elderly homelessness has been rare within the contemporary homeless problem. We’ve always had very few people over 60 whove been homeless historically. But of course that’s changed as this group has come in. It’s now arguably the fastest rising group,” said Dennis Culhane, professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

The vast majority of homeless adults are white, but when weighted for demographics, people of color are disproportionately represented among unhoused populations.

According to the 2022 STATE OF HOMELESSNESS REPORT by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, although 18 out of every 10,000 Americans are homeless, that number jumps to 52 for Black Americans, 45 for Native Americans and a whopping 109 for Pacific Islanders.

The ballooning population of older homeless people is composed largely of YOUNGER BABY BOOMERS, who endured the recessions of the late 1970s and early 1980s as well as the Great Recession in 2008.

In 1983, young Black men in their 20s had an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent, Culhane noted in a 2019 report on rising elderly homelessness. The same report indicated that in New York City, Los Angeles County and Boston, the population of homeless people older than 65 will likely triple by 2030.

It’s this large group of people whose lives have been essentially thrown off track by the economy of the 80s. And there’s strong research that shows that if you don’t get into the labor market in your 20s, the odds that you will are very significantly diminished,” Culhane said.

There’s no single reason for the rise in the older homeless population. Weak social safety nets, mass incarceration policies and an insufficient supply of affordable housing are among the many factors, according to Kushel, Culhane and other experts.

Unlike many other intractable social issues, the phenomenon of people having nowhere to go is relatively new, Culhane said. Fifty years ago, indigent people often lived in low-income housing in areas like Skid Row in Los Angeles, the Bowery in New York City and the red-light district in Boston, Culhane said. While often unsafe or unclean, they were still homes, with walls and a roof.

But beginning in the 1980s, with rising unemployment, a deepening recession and a shift away from the construction of affordable housing, many low-income people often Black and Hispanic - started to drift into homelessness. Urban renewal revitalized downtowns that once housed many of the area’s poorer people, and the nation’s supply of affordable housing dwindled.

Experts the PBS NewsHour spoke with disagree on the extent to which President Ronald Reagan’s policies impacted the current crisis of elderly homelessness, but all agree his administration played at least some part. Among the contributing factors was the era’s anti-welfare rhetoric, which demonized people relying on the nation’s social safety net, Culhane said. That social perspective was political red meat for Republican politicians, who spent the next decade-plus constricting it.

Under Reagan’s policies, the nation’s affordable housing supply began to shrink. Today, 73 percent of extremely low-income renters defined as households whose incomes are at or below the poverty line or 30 percent of their area’s median income PAY MORE THAN HALF THEIR INCOME FOR HOUSING, according to the Center on Budget and Priority Policies.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, across the country, there are only 36 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. Some states, such as Nevada and California, have fewer than 25 affordable rental homes available for every 100 extremely low-income renter households; only nine states have more than 50 available for every 100 households.

In total, more than 1.7 million extremely low-income renter households with an older adult spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, according to a 2021 brief from Justice in Aging.

“This is a Reagan-era problem, but we haven’t fixed it since,” said Eric Tars, legal director at the National Homelessness Law Center. “It has been 40 years since Reagan was in office. He, and the Congress at that point, were the ones who cut the affordable housing budget by more than half. But then every subsequent Congress never made up that gap. And it hasn"t been made up at the state or local level.”

There are other direct and indirect reasons for homelessness. The federal government’s Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is insufficient for many people and difficult to qualify for, Culhane said. It also has not increased commensurate with inflation, even with cost of living increases, he added.

“Many people who are low-income also have network impoverishment,” Tars said. “It’s not just that they are poor, but so are many others in their familial and social circles. People at risk of experiencing homelessness are less likely to have people who can provide personal safety nets for them.”

“Older people are also more likely to experience health issues, which can lead to medical debt,” Tars noted.

“The rise in elderly homelessness,” he said, “is not the result of individual bad choices people are making.”

“This is an injury, this is a chronic illness, because people are old, and our social safety net isn’t catching those people,” Tars said.

Lower life expectancies

Medical issues don’t just cause homelessness; they can also be the result of being unhoused. Homelessness places an enormous burden on people’s bodies, research shows, with experts often saying unhoused people are more biologically similar to housed people who are 10 to 20 years older.

In her research, Kushel has found that among the unhoused population who are 50 and older, about half had been homeless at some point before they were 50, while the other half were homeless for the first time like Thomas.

The latter group typically had worked their whole lives, she said, hovering around the poverty level but always with housing. But a combination of a few life changes forced them from their homes. These events included losing a job, getting sick, a spouse or partner getting sick, separation from a partner, or the death of a partner or parent.

And for those who first become homeless after 50, life expectancies can be even worse than the already early death rate for the general elderly homeless population.

In her research of unhoused people older than 50 in Oakland, California, Kushel found that their median age of death was 64. Compared to the general Oakland population and adjusted for age, the mortality rate for homeless people was 3.5 times higher, according to one of Kushelҗs studies.

Theres evidence that the wave of elderly homeless people will crest around 2030, Culhane said, and then it will start to recede, largely due to the deaths of people in the boomer generation.

A shortage of support

“Manna House serves around 250 people weekly,” Gathje estimated. There aren’t a lot of spaces for community for people without homes, he added.

The vast majority of people are so motivated to get out [of homelessness], they want desperately to get out, and what they need is a little help. And so we’re not talking about a population that cant be helped,” Culhane said. No, “this is a group of people who resoundingly demonstrate that they want the hell out of this hell that they’re living in. And we need to stand beside them and support them in their own self-determination and their own basic survival instinct.”

Thomas knows that feeling. He doesn’t want to be homeless, but he sees no way out. In the year he’s been homeless, he’s found that without a steady source of income, he has nowhere to turn. He wants to work, he said.

Being homeless is tough for Thomas, and scary. When he has wifi, he’ll watch the news on the cracked screen of his cell phone so he knows what areas to avoid. Hes heard of people getting harassed or attacked, he said, and he feels that because homeless people have nowhere to go, they’re easy prey for those who might harm them.

Around 10 a.m., Manna House started closing up for the day. Folks in the heated tent in the backyard grabbed their coffee and their belongings and made their way out front. They would head off to nearby churches, or parks where other food was being given away, or like Thomas, they’d ride the bus until the evening, trying to stay warm.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/17/23 •
Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression • Section Personal
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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

My Pearle Vision Visit

image: rose colored glasses

I visited the optometrist in back of the neighborhood Pearle Vision, paid my copay, and walked to the front of the store with a prescription for eyeglasses.

Expecting to walk out with a new pair of TRANSITION bifocals WITHOUT THE LINES, Pearle Vision wanted $368 after insurance ($750 street) for one pair of those things in a cheap $100 frame. 

Insurance covers up to $120 for frames, so the high out of pocket price is all lense.

I don’t have that kind of money, so got a a cheap, plastic, no tint, no fancy bifocal, pair of lenses for a reasonable $25 copay instead.

Why so expensive for the transitions or fancy POLYCARBONATE lenses? 

This place EXPLAINS:

Pearle vision, along with most other well-known eyeglasses stores, is owned by a huge company that owns major brand names. This means they have a lack of competition which would usually drive prices down.

You may think that the cost of the frames and lenses is what drives up the prices of a pair of glasses. But in fact, that isnt true. Frames are usually made where many other products are made, in China. Having things made in China is much cheaper than anywhere else.

Luxottica is a giant Italian company that owns most major optical retailers and even major brand names. Now that Luxottica own the big stores, they can keep their prices high since there’s no competition to drive their prices down.

Luxottica seem to own most of the eyewear market and even owns a lot of vision insurance. They own the vision insurance plan EyeMed Vision Care and even the online store EyeBuyDirect.

Some online eyewear retailers are considerably cheaper, and the quality of their eyeglasses is just as good as those sold at major stores such as Pearle Vision.

On the way home, I stopped off at CVS and bought a THREE PACK of scratch resistant reading glasses for about $20.

Posted by Elvis on 06/20/23 •
Section Dying America • Section Personal
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