The reason we have social insurance programs for older people, things like Social Security and Medicare, is that we don’t live down on the farm any more. Back in the old days,and for better or worse, (it was worse more often than we remember) the old folks were…
1) A fairly rare species, some people did live to very ripe old ages– just not many of them.
2) We had a much higher birth rate and the average age of the population was much lower.
3) The old people we did have were– mostly– surrounded by an extended family network of people who cared about them.
4) Older people could contribute meaningfully to small scale farms and enterprises long after the time we refer to a “retirement.”
Things are different now. Today, we’re living inside an age boom like no other in the history of the world. The birth rate is low and dropping. People are quite likely to be geographically distant from many of the people they love. Perhaps most importantly, old age is the most common and persistent cause of unemployment. Older people are unemployed because our fast-paced obsessively productive economic sphere has no place for people who move at the pace elders move and have an elder’s level of stamina.
Older people in societies like ours depend on social insurance programs as a matter of life and death. What happens when those programs begin to fray (or are deliberately dismantled)? What happens to the elders who need this kind of support?
Here is one answer…
URBANA – A new study that looked at the hunger trends over a 10-year period found that 14.85 percent of seniors in the United States, more than one in seven, face the threat of hunger. This translates into 8.3 million seniors.
“In 2005, we reported that one in nine seniors faced the threat of hunger,” said Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics and executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory who led the data analysis on the study. “So, unlike the population as a whole, food insecurity among those 60 and older actually increased between 2009 and 2010.”
According to the study, from 2001 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 78 percent. Since the onset of the recession in 2007 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 34 percent.
That’s not right.