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