Economic insecurity is upending the lives of millions of older adults as soaring housing costs and inflation diminish the value of fixed incomes.
Across the country, seniors who until recently successfully managed limited budgets are growing more anxious and distressed. Some lost work during the covid-19 pandemic. Others are encountering unaffordable rent increases and the prospect of losing their homes. Still others are suffering significant sticker shock at grocery stores.
Dozens of older adults struggling with these challenges — none poor by government standards — wrote to me after I featured the Elder Index, a measure of the cost of aging, in a recent column. That tool, developed by researchers at the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, suggests that 54% of older women who live alone have incomes below what’s needed to pay for essential expenses. For single men, the figure is 45%.
To learn more, I spoke at length to three women who reached out to me and were willing to share highly personal details of their lives. Their stories illustrate how unexpected circumstances — the pandemic and its economic aftereffects, natural disasters, and domestic abuse — can result in unanticipated precarity in later life, even for people who worked hard for decades.
“After 33 years living in my apartment, I will have to move since the new owners of the building are renovating all apartments and charging rents of over $1,800 t …