Loneliness And Race In The Twilight Years

Courtesy of Pablo Benavente

The quality of life for the elderly varies by race, and a new report from the Council on Contemporary Families sheds light on how loneliness affects seniors.

The report, by the nonprofit, non-partisan group based at University of Miami, found that elderly women are more likely to live alone and face higher poverty rates than men. But poverty is even higher for black and Hispanic women. Elderly black women are more likely to be widows because black men don’t live as long as white men. The average white man lives seven years longer than the average black man.

Older white men are better off financially than any other elderly group, but suicide is most prevalent for the widowed among them, according to the report. The suicide rate for white men over 80 is six times the overall average in the U.S., and three times the rate for black men of the same age.

Blacks and Latinos have a tougher time financially during retirement than whites for a number of reasons. For instance, poverty is more prevalent among elderly people of color, who are less likely to have workplace retirement plans than whites.

The elderly population in D.C. is majority black, but whites 75 and older in the city are more likely to live alone, according to census estimates:

Total households with someone 75+ One-person, 75+ households Percentage of one-person, 75+ households
Black 17,337 7,979 46%
White 7,590 4,549 60%
Hispanic 859 373 43%
 *Source: 2010 U.S. Census Bureau estimates

Some other take-aways from the report: women over 60 who live alone are happier than married women of the same age, and older, solitary men have more trouble maintaining social networks than women living alone.

Why Retirement is Tougher for Blacks, Latinos

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Senior citizens attend a meeting with their senator about Social Security at the Isabella Geriatric Center in New York City. Black seniors, on average, rely more heavily on Social Security than whites.

Unemployment rates are higher for blacks and Latinos than for whites, but there’s another disparity at the end of the career spectrum: retirement. Black and Latino retirees have a tougher time financially than their white counterparts, according to a new University of California, Berkeley study [PDF]. Below are three reasons why:

Poverty is higher among black and Latino seniors than white seniors.

The poverty rate among all seniors is about 9 percent. For white seniors, it’s 7 percent, while for black and Latino seniors, it’s 19 percent. People of color over 60 years old are more likely to live in poverty because they rely on fewer sources of retirement income than white seniors, according to the study’s authors.

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Seniors in Need Get Free Lawn Service

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These humid summer months make mowing a lawn an arduous task, and District residents with grass more than 10 inches high could be slapped with a $500 fine. But not everyone is physically capable of mowing a lawn or can afford to pay someone else to do it.

Thankfully, there is some help out there. Starting Saturday, senior citizens in all D.C. wards are eligible to have youth mow their lawns for free. The D.C. Department of Employment Services’ youth division is expanding its free lawn cutting service, which started in Ward 5 last year. Supervised youth working D.C. summer jobs will mow lawns of any size.

If you have an elderly neighbor or relative who could use the help, act quickly — the deadline to ask for this service is 5 p.m., Monday. Priority will be given to disabled seniors who live alone. Contact the Office of Aging at 202-724-5622 or DOES at 202-724-7000.

Meal Service for D.C.’s Seniors Resumes Full Operations

Flickr: Rich Moffitt

Nutrition Inc., the food service company that delivers meals to D.C.’s home-bound seniors, shut down last week, leaving District officials scrambling to fill the void.

The company, which may have to file for bankruptcy, notified the D.C. Office on Aging of its impending closure a few days before the service stopped. The District is now relying on temporary vendors to fill in and has started looking for a new, permanent one. Initially, about 300 seniors who were the most vulnerable were given priority immediately after Nutrition, Inc.’s closure. The Washington Post reports that there was some disruption in services.

Now John Thompson, the Office of Aging’s acting executive director, tells DCentric that as of this week, everyone should be receiving their meals as normal. Service centers and new vendors have been running spot checks to ensure everyone who should be receiving a meal is getting one.

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