Despite what you might read in Trump’s daily tweets, many Americans are experiencing hardship under this current administration. This administration is hellbent on rolling back, changing or eliminating programs and legislation that directly impacts people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities and older Americans in negative and damaging ways. Every time we see him do or say something awful or ridiculous or enact a policy that would alter people’s lives or our world in profoundly devastating ways, we wonder how much worse it can get.
Older Americans are facing an increasingly scary reality in this current climate and administration. The proposed budget for 2019 presents many challenges and hardships that include a restructure of some Medicare drug benefits, a reduction in Medicare spending, freezing of funds and cutting food stamp programs. My parents are close to entering their seventh decade of life and they are scared and worried about their future. They are lucky to have a decent retirement income, but are still struggling to survive within the confines of a fixed income when their bodies continue to break down and the cost of living with multiple health concerns, surgeries, necessary medication and medical care continues to skyrocket. When I asked my mom how she feels about the state of things, she said, “It feels like we’re being thrown away”.
Older Americans often have to decide whether to buy food or medication. There have been programs in place to help ease this predicament, but these programs continue to be in jeopardy under this current administration. The Older Americans Act (OAA) provides funding for nutritional programs like Meals on Wheels, transportation, legal services, in-home and community services, caregiver support and elder abuse programs. It is was enacted in 1965 and works to help seniors stay as independent as possible while providing support and choice. Hunger Free Colorado reports that one of seven adults over the age of 60 has to face this dilemma. Unfortunately, being a food-insecure senior puts you at higher risk for other major health concerns like congestive heart failure, depression and asthma.
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OAA funding has been in decline for the last decade, but faces serious cuts in this proposed budget. The White House has proposed small allotments for nutrition and cuts in funding for chronic disease management, fall prevention and elder rights support. Without this funding and support our older American population becomes even more vulnerable and at risk.
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration is also reducing the use of fines against nursing homes that abuse and neglect patients. The new guidelines and change in policy are a result of Trump’s commitment to pull back the government from intervening in business. However, these changes, “discourage regulators from leveraging fines in some situations, even when they have resulted in a resident’s death”. Reducing or relaxing penalties against nursing homes means more older Americans are at risk of severe violations and injuries.
Medicaid cuts, rental and heating assistance cuts and reduction in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pose more negative outcomes for older Americans. Many older Americans are working well into their 70’s because it is too expensive to retire. Today nearly 9 million seniors still work in some capacity, while only 4 million worked in 2000. Even people who didn’t have their retirement wiped out during the recession, are facing dismal outcomes as it becomes harder to budget and survive on decreasing Social Security benefits. One big health problem or hospital stay can change everything. This would account for why over a third of America’s homeless population is over the age of 50. The Washington Post reports that, “Nearly 30 percent of households headed by someone 55 or older have neither a pension or a retirement savings.”
Growing old in America is getting increasingly scarier under this administration and the burden of the lack of resources and support will fall on the shoulders of other generations who are being affected in negative ways as well. We are all needing change and we need it quick. Luckily there are individuals running for office who have the interest of our seniors and other disadvantaged groups in mind. We need to use our voice and organize to build better systems to support those older Americans who are currently experiencing hardships and fine tune those systems so something reliable will be in place as we age as well.
[Featured Image: A close-up photo of a person’s face. They have white hair and are wearing a pink tank top. Source: pexels.com]