Last year, BEDS Plus saw a surge in older clients. We reached 120 people aged 62 and older, the largest number and largest percent — 13% — of seniors ever helped in a year. This was four times the 5-year average of 30 seniors helped in a year. We served 212 individuals between the ages of 51 and 61, another dramatic increase from our 5-year average of 129. According to a recent University of Pennsylvania study, homelessness among those aged 54 to 64 has grown across the country. Researchers expect that the aged homeless population will roughly triple by 2025.
Why is this happening?
The causes come from the limits of senior benefits and the time they entered adulthood.
Senior benefits do not guarantee housing. Sixty-five is the minimum age for Medicare and Social Security, leaving many outside the social safety net. And when benefits become available, they cannot solely cover housing and other necessary expenses. For example, Social Security Income (SSI) for an individual only totals $771/month (or $9,252 per year), below Cook County’s fair market $1,044 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment (and the Federal Poverty Level of $12,490).
The economy left many behind, limiting their resources. The above study describes how those aged 54 to 64 came of age after the height of the Baby Boom, putting them in job markets full of more seasoned competition. Combined with successive recessions, many found themselves under or unemployed, which continued as they aged. Now, a lack of retirement savings and affordable housing options leaves them no place to go.
What can we do?
Like with all people experiencing homelessness, the solution is housing. It reduces the costs of homelessness and improves individual quality of life.
Housing older people experiencing homelessness through programs like BEDS’ cuts public costs. The University of Pennsylvania projects reductions of:
|Cost||Conservative Estimate||Less Conservative Estimate|
|Emergency Room Visits||-6%||-45%|
|Inpatient Behavioral Healthcare||-35%||-56%|
Housing dramatically improves senior quality of life. Staying in homeless shelters, constant traveling for food and support services, and maintaining health put enormous physical and emotional stress on everyone. They are especially trying for those experiencing the natural effects of aging. Housing ensures they are protected from the streets and have a basis to reenter their communities.