The Challenges Facing an Aging America

For many Americans, their “golden years” are no longer looking so bright. The challenges facing the United States’s aging population are severe, from the rising cost of prescription drugs to the increasing number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease.1,2 People are living longer and are living more expensive lives, causing more people of retirement age to continue working than ever before. These issues are even more concerning when you take into account shifting population demographics, which will see the proportion of the US population over the age of 65 rise from 16% to 23% by 2060.3 

Currently, nearly 1 in 5 Americans over the age of 65 are still working.4 According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this number has been rising steadily for more than 30 years. In 2000, 12.5% of Americans 65 and older were working (4 million), while in 2016 that number had risen to 18.6% (9 million).5 The increasing number of retirement-age Americans continuing to work is in part due to decreased retirement savings and decreased effectiveness of Social Security benefits. Since 2000, Social Security benefits have lost around a third of their purchasing power.6 This is highly concerning, as 19.7% of Social Security recipients who are 65 and over receive 100% of their income from Social Security, according to the US Social Security Administration. To put these numbers into perspective, annual Social Security payments are lower than the annual salary of the federal minimum wage: $27,120 vs. $30,160.7

When 1 in 5 Americans have no savings, their ability to rely on Social Security benefits going into retirement is a necessity that they are no longer able to trust. According to the US Government Accountability Office, almost 30% of households headed by someone over the age of 55 have neither a pension fund nor any retirement savings. For people who do have a retirement fund, the median value of those accounts is around $120,000 for those aged 55 to 64, according to the Federal Reserve. Even this amount is likely insufficient when average life expectancy in the US is almost 79 years old.8 

The US has one of the highest rates of poverty for those 65 and older among developed nations at 21.5%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.9 It is clear that we not only need to be taking better care of our elderly, but prepare for our own futures as well. Simply Virtuous supports organizations whose goal is to aid our elderly through research, care, and advocacy. Justice In Aging supports impoverished seniors through litigation and resources in order to ensure they can access programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The National Council On Aging works to improve the lives of America’s elderly so they can continue to live independent, healthy lives. The American Federation for Aging Research funds research on geriatric medicine and diseases that affect aging people, looking out for our elderly now and for generations to come. The Alzheimer’s Association and the Arthritis Foundation target specific conditions and support those affected. To learn more about these organizations, visit the Simply Virtuous page Caring For Our Elderly.

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