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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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