What can be done to help today’s seniors and generations to come? There are two approaches, Prindiville says: help people save for old age and make retirement more affordable. As for the first approach, some states have been trying to establish programs that help people save for retirement through payroll deductions even if their employers don’t offer any retirement-savings accounts, for example. But the Trump administration in May repealed an Obama-era rule from the Department of Labor that would have made it easier for states to help people to set up these plans. And the federal government is winding down a program, called myRA, that tried to encourage middle- and low-income Americans to save for retirement. “There are no new initiatives or strategies coming out of the federal government at a time when the need is growing,” Prindiville said.
The second approach might mean expanding affordable housing options, creating programs to help seniors cover medical costs, and reforming the Supplemental Security Income program so that poor seniors can receive more benefits.But there does not seem to be much of an appetite for such ideas in Washington right now. In fact, the Trump administration has proposed cutting money from SSI as well as the Social Security Disability Income program.
These initiatives can make the difference between having a home—and some semblance of stability—and not. Roberta Gordon, in Corona, was barely scraping by when I talked to her. A few months later, she was much more stable. Why? She’d gotten off a wait list and been accepted into the housing-voucher program known as Section 8, which reduces the amount of income she has to put towards housing. She’s still working at 76, but she feels a little more secure now that she has more help. She knows, at least, that she’s one of the lucky ones—able, in her older years, to keep food on the table and a roof over her head.
Many Americans are opposed to helping the poor who they feel should be helping themselves. There is probably more support for providing food or temporary shelter intended to help people get through a rough patch. But, housing is something different. Why should the government provide funds or other help in finding housing when others are working hard to rent a unit somewhere or scrap together funds to purchase a home?
But, Americans in the last century have been more willing to provide help for seniors. They have contributed to society over their lifetime. They deserve a retirement after decades of work. Society should care for the aged. This does not necessarily mean senior centers or nursing homes are welcomed everywhere; indeed, many residents do not want to live right next to one (see an example from the Chicago area). Yet, many communities also are willing to do things to help seniors stay and thus there are property tax caps or programs to help seniors pay for utilities.
Maybe this is how affordable housing will start to be addressed in many American communities: seniors will need it in the coming years and decades. Once some of this housing is present, perhaps neighbors will see it is not as bad as they feared.