Master Plan: 5 Bold Goals

Goal five for 2030
Goal five: Affording Aging

"We will have economic security for as long as we live."

Target: Close the Equity Gap in and Increase Elder Economic Sufficiency

View Goal Five’s data indicators and track our progress at the Data Dashboard for Aging.

Economic security is essential to living and aging well, but retirement income is being outpaced by the rising costs of housing, health, and care. Further, retirement income has traditionally relied on a combination of three sources for stability: individual savings, employer-paid pensions, and Social Security. However, individual retirement savings are lower than previous generations, and private pensions are declining. As a result, more older Americans and Californians are overly reliant on Social Security income alone and therefore more vulnerable to poverty. Women are particularly at risk because of work that did not count towards Social Security earnings (such as domestic work and unpaid family caregiving) and longer lifespans.

As a result, many middle-income Californians are experiencing downward economic mobility with age. Nearly half of all U.S. households are headed by someone aged 55 or older with no retirement savings. One quarter of people over 65 rely almost entirely on their Social Security benefits, which average about $1,500 per month for retired workers and $1,250 per month for disabled workers. With California’s fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $1,522, many older renters are left with little or no money for food, healthcare, and other expenses. California has the second highest rate of poverty among older adults in the country, leading to high levels of hunger and increasing homelessness. Approximately 20 percent of all people 65 and over in California live in poverty ; however, the portion of Black, Indigenous, and Latino older adults living in poverty is double that.

A particularly alarming trend is that residents over age 50 are now the fastest growing population of homeless people in many parts of the state, with the median age of the homeless expected to rise. Black men are disproportionately represented within the population of older Californians without homes, reflecting cumulative effects of decades of inequities in housing, education, employment, and criminal justice. The harsh reality of aging without a stable home includes dire health impacts: older adults without homes experience health problems that you would typically see in people who are 20 years older, including cognitive decline and decreased mobility.

California will pursue Affordable Aging through below strategies and initiatives.

Strategy A: End Homelessness for Older Adults

California will continue to invest in innovative solutions to prevent older adult homelessness, reduce barriers to accessing housing programs and services, and promote the transition of those experiencing homelessness to affordable and accessible housing models, with supportive services.

  • Initiative 117

    - Building on the success of Homekey, further develop the network of housing needed to end homelessness, prevent older and other at-risk individuals from falling into homelessness, and provide expanded supports at housing placements. (Leading Agencies: CHHS & BCSHA)
  • Initiative 118

    - Expand older homelessness programs, such as HomeSafe (APS) and Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP/SSI), to meet needs as funds allow. (Leading Agency: CHHS)
  • Initiative 119

    - Assess IHSS Plus Housing models. (Leading Agency: CHHS)

Strategy B: Income Security as We Age

Challenges require multiple approaches: For income, California will pursue partnerships to assess and strengthen all three sources – individual savings, employer-based retirement, and Social Security – and to expand employment opportunities and economic security at all ages. For expenses, reducing housing and health costs (as discussed in goal one and two) will increase elder economic security.

  • Initiative 120

    - In State Planning for Affordability, include aging, disabled, and caregiving populations and life course considerations. (Leading Agency: LWDA)
  • Initiative 121

    - Advocate for new federal Administration to assess Social Security gaps for California's diverse workforce, including caregivers, farmworkers, and more. (Leading Agency: LWDA)
  • Initiative 122

    - Assess and propose pension data indicators – such as availability and adequacy to aging and older adults – to include in Data Dashboard for Aging. (Leading Agencies: GovOps, CHHS, SCO & STO)
  • Initiative 123

    - Continue to promote CalSavers. (Leading Agency: STO)
  • Initiative 124

    - Review CalSavers participation data for equity and consider CalSavers reforms to expand access and impact. (Leading Agency: STO)
  • Initiative 125

    - Continue to promote CalABLE. (Leading Agency: STO)
  • Initiative 126

    - Review CalABLE participation data for equity and consider reforms to expand access and impact, such as expanded eligibility. (Leading Agency: STO)
  • Initiative 127

    - Continue to promote the California Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the only EITC in nation available to people 65 and over. (Leading Agency: CHHS)
  • Initiative 128

    - Review CalEITC participation data by older adults for equity and consider reforms to expand access and impact. (Leading Agencies: CHHS & FTB)

Strategy C: Protection from Poverty & Hunger

The federal/State safety net for older adults and people with disabilities, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), has not kept up with poverty levels. A recent state budget agreement proposes to begin to address the SSP in January 2022. The hunger and nutritional needs of older Californians need greater assessment and coordination to provide affordable and culturally appropriate foods through CalFresh (SNAP), food banks, meal delivery at home, congregate meals at day centers and long-term care facilities, farmers markets, and medically tailored meals, among others.

  • Initiative 129

    - Consistent with the Budget Act of 2018, begin to bring older adult basic income (Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment and Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants) up to meet Elder Economic Index and Federal Poverty Level, to meet need as funding available. (Leading Agency: CHHS)
  • Initiative 130

    - Map and identify opportunities – at federal, state, and local level - to address older Californians’ needs for nutrition, with lessons learned from COVID-19 Food CBO work group, across CalFresh, Older Californians’ Home and Congregate Meals, Food Banks, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition, Adult Care Meals, Medically Tailored Meals, Residential Facility Meals, Great Plates, and more. (Leading Agencies: CHHS, CDFA, OES & CDE)
  • Initiative 131

    - Continue to streamline older and disabled adult enrollment, renewal, and online shopping in CalFresh, as allowable. (Leading Agency: CHHS)
  • Initiative 132

    - Seek federal funds to expand the senior food box program (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) statewide. (Leading Agency: CHHS)

The concentration of financial assets among the wealthiest families, combined with increasing housing and health care costs, dwindling pension plans,and low savings among most households threatens the retirement security of many working Californians.CalSavers is a great start and through innovative policy options and tailored outreach, California can encourage employers and individuals to build toward a financially secure future.

Nari Rhee, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research & Education, MPA Research Subcommittee Member
Local Models: San Francisco’s Project Homekey and Meals Expansion during COVID-19
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Through Project Homekey, San Francisco is turning hundreds of motel rooms into permanent supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness and significant impacts during COVID-19. San Francisco’s Department of Disability and Aging Services and community partners quickly pivoted to ensure that older adults and adults with disabilities have access to food, home care, social engagement, and other essential support in response to COVID-19.