Forgotten Generation

According to The Motley Fool, 59% of current retired seniors count on Social Security as their major source of income and 28% say it is a helpful source of income, which means 9 in 10 seniors need Social Security to make ends meet during retirement. In 1945, there were 42 workers for each recipient of Social Security. In 1950 this ratio dropped to 16 to 1. In 2015 there were 2.8 workers for every recipient and within 50 years there will be just 2 workers for every retiree. These are scary numbers.

Now the good news for Social Security (bad news for Americans) is the United States life expectancy is now 6 months shorter than it was last year, according to Financial Advisor. The average 65 year old American man will die a few months short of his 86th birthday and the average 65 year old woman will get an additional two years, barely missing 88. Among the culprits causing this shorter life expectancy are drug overdoses, suicide, alcohol poisoning and liver disease. Longevity for younger Americans is also down. A 25 year old woman last year had a 50/50 chance of reaching the age of 90. This year she is projected to fall 6 months short. A 25 year old man is expected to live to 86 years and 11 months, down from 87 years and 8 months from last year. All generations are expected to die sooner today than was expected last year.

The poverty level of people aged 65 and older is 8.8%. According to US News, Social Security dramatically cut poverty among seniors, who would be at 40.5% at the poverty level if not receiving their monthly Social Security checks. Social Security is especially important to elderly women who tend to earn less than men and take more time out of the paid workforce to raise families, so they accumulate less savings and get smaller pensions. Social Security brought 8.8 million elderly women out of poverty in 2015. Total seniors kept out of poverty because of Social Security was 15 million last year.

But according to the Global Age Watch Index, even with our Social Security program, the United States is just ranked ninth as the best country taking care of their elderly citizens. Switzerland is number 1, followed by Norway, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Iceland and Japan. The metrics used for this ranking include health, income security and how friendly a society is to the elderly such as physical safety, access to public transportation and the ease of maintaining social connections later in life - a key component of mental health and happiness. The report concludes that the USA is only ranked number 9 because of a lifetime of inequalities in our society in areas such as wealth, healthcare and educational attainment. With the amount of wealth we have in our country, it is puzzling why we aren't in the top 5 countries in the world taking care of our parents and grandparents.

I know America does care about its elderly. Having stretched our government to about as far as it can go to help, we are fortunate to have several nonprofit organizations that do intervene when a family cannot or does not want to help our older citizens. Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly steps in with several locations across the country, with their mission to serve socially isolated elders by providing programs that combat loneliness and promote independent living. Dreams for Seniors applauds our elders by helping them fulfill their dream, whether it is a computer to stay in touch with family via email or helping them connect with childhood friends. Senior Net has helped 2 million seniors with education and access to computer technologies to enhance their lives. Volunteers of America provides services and programs promoting health and independence for the elderly. They provide senior centers and day programs, home repair, homemaker services and group meals. Meals on Wheels serves meals in community facilities for seniors who can get out and delivers meals to those home bound. For these elderly this service goes beyond a nutritious meal, because it becomes companionship and a watchful eye on the health and safety of our seniors. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are asking you to nominate a nonprofit who helps our seniors to share in our 1,200 pairs of socks giveaway.

AARP published a report this fall that the 50 plus age group generated $7.6 trillion in economic activity which was a $500 billion increase from 2013. $5 trillion of this was consumer spending on day in day living expenses. This group also generated $1.8 trillion in federal, state and local taxes. One of the most unique numbers to come out of this study was one out of every three U.S. businesses was started by an entrepreneur over the age of 50. AARP also found that 80% of those aged 65 and older had given to charity in the last 12 months compared to 58% of those aged 25-34. Retirees account for 42% of all donations given and 45% of volunteer hours. As Baby Boomers retire they will be creating an $8 billion surge in giving of which $6.6 trillion will be in money and $1.4 trillion will be in volunteer time (58 billion hours).

When people grow old in traditional villages around the world, family and friends care for them at home through their dying days. In America we send them to a nursing home, which is a contrast that seems unfeeling or even cruel. Historically we believe that it is human nature for parents to make sacrifices for their children and in turn their grown children make sacrifices for their aging parents, but this does not always work in today's society. The elderly used to be the repository for knowledge and quite useful, but in today's world we feel we can get a more accurate story using the internet. So what has happened to America where 90% of our seniors need Social Security to live and we are only rated number 9 in taking care of our elders? All of us are eventually going to turn 65. Is it going to get worse as more Baby Boomers reach that threshold? Our seniors today are a giving group and want to contribute. Will their children let them add value to society or just wave good bye and let our safety network of nonprofits deal with older people?