As baby boomers enter their golden years, more seniors without a support network face homelessness – or teeter precariously close to the edge of housing instability.
Homelessness among senior citizens will more than double by 2050 from 2010 numbers, surging from 44,000 to roughly 93,000 housing insecure older adults. Now more than ever before, a growing number of senior citizens face an increased risk of homelessness, while at the same time housing costs are on the rise.
By taking steps such as volunteering and making your voice heard along with others, you can increase awareness about senior homelessness and compel legislators to act.
Homelessness Increases Risks for Seniors
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandates that municipalities conduct an annual count of homeless individuals to inform federal funding. Via the Point In Time Count, municipalities comply with this mandate.
In 2017, the count recorded over half a million housing unstable persons. Without reliable shelter, homeless people are especially vulnerable, especially during disasters and inhospitable weather conditions.
Even without the threat of disaster or inclement weather, the homeless population faces many challenges. Some homeless individuals succumb to trauma and suffer from deteriorating mental health. Others can’t even rely on the stability of temporary, makeshift shelters due to theft, destruction or disposal, and at the same time, face the risk of physical harm from others.
Homelessness is even more challenging for senior citizens. Many exhibit chronic health conditions. At the same time, they don’t have access to health insurance or quality healthcare. Some homeless older adults do not trust clinics or social services, and for some seniors who do attempt to seek help, the process of enrolling for assistance is just too much to manage.
What’s Fueling the Problem?
Affordable housing is becoming more and more scarce, increasing the risk of homelessness for many senior citizens. It’s a common belief that many senior citizens have fewer living expenses because they own their homes. However, this is not the case for many aging adults who rent or continue to make mortgage payments.
In the United States, nearly 9 million senior homeowners face a high-cost burden, and almost 5 million seniors face a severe cost burden. Furthermore, healthcare expenses contribute to a higher portion of costs for seniors compared to the general population, leaving fewer funds available for housing.
Over the last few decades, economic factors have pushed many seniors and individuals who are nearing retirement age one step away from housing insecurity. Since the 1980s, wages have remained relatively stagnant for low-income and moderate-income individuals, while the cost of living has continued to rise. Resultantly, many senior citizens remain in the workforce not because they want to – but because they’re forced to do so.
Many seniors in the United States fail to save or maintain enough income for a stable retirement. Resultantly, eviction and homelessness are substantial threats for many aging Americans.
Nearly 30% of consumers between the ages of 50 and 64 have zero retirement savings. Among those who do manage to build some savings, the average nest egg hovers around $150,000, hardly enough to support a work-free existence with today’s extended life expectancies.
Furthermore, company pensions are becoming extinct, and many seniors are surrendering the equity in their homes entirely via reverse mortgages and other financial instruments.
Looking Out for Homeless Seniors
Some homeless seniors struggle with mental health issues. Physicians have diagnosed 20% of older adults with at least one mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Homeless seniors – especially those struggling with mental health issues – are especially vulnerable.
There are several things that you can do to help in the effort to mitigate homelessness. To begin with, you can compel your political leaders to reconsider redirecting resources to aid homeless seniors. Writing pleas to elected officials is an integral part of moving such initiatives toward a vote.
Furthermore, you can help spread word-of-mouth to advance initiatives that support housing insecure older adults. You can also connect with nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of homeless seniors.
More than likely, nonprofit organizations can provide you with plenty of ways to help. For example, you could check with nearby shelters to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
At the very least, volunteering is a small – but meaningful – contribution toward resolving a much larger issue. Even if you only affect a small, positive change for one individual, it’s well worth the effort. However, a large-scale initiative is required to reduce the threats faced by housing insecure seniors significantly.
Alone, you can only affect small changes that may help at-risk and housing insecure senior citizens. By raising your voice with others, however, you can help to build a momentum that can create positive change for America’s at-risk aging population.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.