A Note From Our Executive Director
A friend of mine recently contacted me to ask for information to help with a class project. While I was answering her questions, I started thinking about how seniors are defined in today’s world and how they are coping with the current economic climate.
This economy is scary. It is scary for everyone, regardless of race, age, or personal income. Specifically, I think about how scary it is for seniors…seniors that live solely on social security benefits. Seniors without retirement checks, not because they planned poorly for their futures, but because they worked in industries that paid low wages, making retirement not possible, or they worked cash-only jobs in farming or pulpwood. Everyone knows that seniors are living longer, but that also means they are outliving their savings, if they have any. With the rising cost of everything - utilities, food, gas, healthcare, seniors are struggling and having to make hard choices.
Like everything else, the senior population is made up of layers that isn’t necessarily defined by the ages. Let me explain…
Today’s seniors are different. The federal older Americans Act of 1965 defines a senior as someone aged 60+. But, for me, that age doesn’t really fit today’s definition of a senior, so I call them older adults. Older adults are working longer and retiring later. They are healthier, more active, and more financially stable. They are tech savvy and educated. They demand more from today’s world than their older counterparts.
The younger seniors, or older adults, range in age from 60-90. I have the privilege of knowing a couple of 90-year-olds that are more active and spryer than I am at the age of 52! They are out in the world proving that age is just a number, and they aren’t slowing down until they have to. These are the older adults that you see in advertisements on television and on all the brochures in doctor’s offices. This is the senior we all want to be and this the senior the advertising world wants you to see.
The traditional senior, those that are retired and going out to breakfast with their peers or attending civic or social meetings, etc. They’ve “slowed down”, but they are concentrated on taking better care of themselves and giving back. They are trying to learn today’s technology and how to navigate this fast-changing world they live in. They have health issues and financial concerns, but they get by with help of family and neighbors. You’ll see and hear about this senior in advertisements as well, but not as much as the “younger” seniors.
But I want to talk to you about the old seniors. I attended a webinar recently hosted by a national senior advocacy group and they talked about this group, which they called the “old old”. That’s the group that has been somewhat forgotten in this fast-paced, technology filled world. These seniors are not tech savvy and have little to no interest in technology. They grew up in a time without technology and are now being forced into learning new things so that they can participate in telehealth and sign up for services online. This generation of senior still exists in every community across the nation, and it is not the one that glossy advertisements want you to see. These adults are being pushed aside because they don’t have large retirements savings or college (even high school) degrees. They live on social security incomes of $770 a month (yes, I said month). Yet this world expects this generation to have access to the internet, iPads, and/or smartphones to participate in telecare services or to enroll in services. This is the generation that social or print media doesn’t want to acknowledge. No one wants to see this senior on the glossy brochures, or even admit they are still out there, but they are out there. They are your neighbors and friend’s grandparents, and there are a lot of them. They are a forgotten generation.
Today’s world is different and it’s scary, but there are people and agencies trying to help. FCCOA is here for all seniors, the young and the old. We, along with other agencies in Fairfield County, have programs in place to help with all kinds of needs a senior may have food needs, or socialization. But we can’t do it all and we can’t do it alone. We need you, the community, to help. Step up in your community and volunteer to help. Help teach a senior how to navigate the internet. Help deliver food to someone in need. Give your friend’s grandma a ride to the store. There are so many little things that can make a huge impact on a senior’s life. Let’s get started making that impact today.