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NJ Elder Economic Security Index

In 2009 NJFA released the first NJ Elder Economic Security Index Report. This report provided the cost of living for people over 65 in NJ. Not only did it determine how much seniors need to meet their basic needs in NJ, but also broke down the data for all 21 counties in NJ.

 If you are not familiar with the Index, it breaks down the cost of living for NJ seniors in several categories- Housing, Transportation, Food, Healthcare and Misc. It also looks at these costs for both single elders and those living in a two person household. The Index goes even further to differentiate the costs for renters, homeowners with a mortgage and homeowners without a mortgage. With the release of the report in 2009 this opened the eyes of many policymakers and advocates as to the high cost of living for seniors. It also highlighted the issue of what senior’s income was compared to their cost of living. The accompanying Policy Brief also looked at the benefit programs and public supports that are available

In 2012 NJFA released an Index update. Not only did NJFA update the numbers but the new report also included a demographics study. The demographics study told us how many seniors in NJ were living below the Elder Index, not just in the state of NJ, but in each county as well.

Of single and two person households over 65 in NJ, 42.6% of them live below the Elder Index. Because the Elder Index is based on the costs for either a single elder or an elder living in a two person household, the demographic study misses those who are living in a household with 3 or more people.

If in 2012 42.6% of elderly single and two person households were living below the Index in NJ, what does that mean for 2013 and beyond? If we look at the change from 2009 (the first NJ Elder Index) and 2013, some seniors have seen more than a 30% increase in their cost of living. In 2009 the cost of living for a single senior renter in NJ was estimated to be $25,941. In 2013 its $28,860, that’s an 11.25% increase in costs without an increase in income. Some seniors may find it necessary to seek employment in retirement.

Not all seniors will be able to find employment or may not even be able to work. This is where benefit programs enter the picture. Programs like PAAD or Senior Gold can help cut the cost of prescription medications. Lifeline and LIHEAP can help them to pay their utilities bills. SNAP (formerly food stamps), Farmers Market Coupons and other nutrition programs will make it easier to access healthy foods. The highest cost for seniors is their housing. So naturally affordable housing would make the biggest impact for a senior who is below the index. However, affordable housing is difficult to come by. Many seniors are on multiple waiting lists, each kept separately without a way of sharing the information.

This is why NJFA continues to advocate for all services that may benefit seniors. In order to ensure that all of NJ’s seniors can live in the community of their choice, with independence and dignity.

To view the full Elder Index Report, please visit our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org/issues.html





Are you a Boomer who feels squished like a sandwich?

If so, you aren’t alone. Many people in the boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) have now been referred to as the Sandwich Generation. That is because this generation that thought their middle years would be full of free time with plenty of time to plan what to do with their retirement benefits is facing a very different reality. Due to the recession, some young adults have had to put off college, or have had difficulty finding a job after completing college. So, for some boomers, they have adult children that have come home and aging parents that may need extra help.

On top of the possibility that some boomers may have lost some of their investments they were relying on for retirement, they also may be spending extra money to help their children get on their feet. Meanwhile their aging parents have also felt the effects of the recession.

This has resulted in two or three generations of a family living under one roof. There are various scenarios, out of work adult children move in with parents due to job loss, sometimes with young adults (college or post-college) in tow. Or young adults come back from college and need to live with mom and dad or even grandpa and grandma. Sometimes the older adult is in need of help so it may work out for both the young adult and the grandparent who needs assistance.

 It’s a fact that is backed up by serious stats, between 2007 and 2009 multigenerational households shot up more than 10 percent, from 46.5 million to 51.4 million. According to the Pew Research Center, that is the largest number of Americans living that way in modern history. Even as the economy recovers, those numbers probably won’t chance much as people are still finding a need to live under one roof.

Sometimes it is due to finances, sometimes it is also due to need for more hands on care. Adult children and grandchildren are finding themselves in caregiver roles more often as the older generation lives longer than it used to. They may have left a job to move in with their parent or grandparent or had them move into their house. Even if mom or dad live in a long term care setting boomers and their children will find that they are juggling their work life, family life, and financial problems all while caring for an elder.

Multigenerational households can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe it means that the child or grandchild doesn’t have to worry about childcare because grandma or grandpa is there. It could mean getting to spend time with a loved one in their last years, providing care for them while you gain comfort in knowing you took care of them they way they did you. Or just the simple fact that saving money by all being together means fewer rent or mortgage payments, utilities, etc. Not to mention sharing cooking and cleaning duties. So while the economy may have hurt your savings, it may just have brought your family together.

 NPR has recently begun a series on this topic called “Family Matters” you can read more facts and hear the stories of three families at http://www.npr.org/2012/04/17/150365158/one-roof-three-generations-many-decisions

 The lesson to be learned? Talk about your plans for the future with your family, many of the families in the stories state this is not where they expected to end up, but we all age and we can all become ill at anytime, so talk to your family and be prepared for what you might do when and if the time comes.

Food Hardship, Do you have enough?

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) recently released their analysis of survey data collected in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. ¬†In the breakdown of state data, the survey reveals that the highest rates of “food hardship” happen to be in the Southern parts of our country. When it comes to New Jersey’s congressional districts, the 10th district comes in at number 9 out of 436 districts. This was the highest by far compared to all other New Jersey congressional districts. The 10th district consists of towns in Essex, Hudson and Union county. Mostly, the 10th District is made up of Essex county towns such as Orange, West Orange, East Orange, South Orange, parts of Newark and parts of Montclair. The representative for NJ‚Äôs 10th Congressional District is Donald Payne.

With the New Jersey Elder Economic Security Index, we found that food was 11% of an elder’s budget. What that breaks down to is a monthly average of $234 spent of food for a single elder and $430 for a couple. Housing and healthcare are the highest costs for those 65 and over in NJ. However, programs like SNAP (Food Stamps) and Farmers Market Coupons, can help to save seniors a little money in one area (food costs) so that they aren’t deciding between paying their rent or mortgage versus eating. The FRAC study really highlights what we already now, many people in New Jersey (and throughout the country) don’t have a sufficient income to cover the necessities.

If you or someone you know need assistance, please contact your County Office on Aging, you can find a list at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html  or call the Food Stamp Hotline at 1-800-687-9512 or on the web at  http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/foodstamps/ .

To view the entire FRAC report visit: http://www.frac.org/pdf/food_hardship_report_2010.pdf but here are some more national highlights and figures from the report:

The survey asked more than 530,000 people if in the past 12 months they were unable to buy enough food for themselves or their families. FRAC’s analysis provides a percentage of “food hardship” for the nation, states, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) and congressional districts. The data is from 2008 and 2009. Nationally, the survey shows that many people began having difficulty purchasing food for themselves and their families in mid-2008. The number of respondents that stated they did not have enough food jumped from 16.3% in the first quarter of 2008 to 19.5% in the last quarter of 2008. This coincides with the rise of the unemployment rate nationally, which was 6.9% in November of 2008. At that time food prices were also on the rise. By the fourth quarter of 2009 the rate of “food hardship” dropped to 18.5%, the report suggests this was due to falling food prices and by an increase in support programs such as SNAP (food stamps) which received a boost to match the increased enrollment as well as an additional boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Despite the drop, the reports writers caution the reader that this is not the best news; it still means that 1 out of 5 Americans does not have enough food.

When it came to ranking the 436 congressional districts in the US, a rank¬† of #1 means the highest food hardship rate, but again the report warns us that a ranking of 300th or 400th is still not good news, because the data really shows that food hardship is an overwhelming problem in our great nation. The writers go a step further to challenge congress to act on this national problem, stating it is a problem that is “demanding a solution”.