Seniors Cutting Corners

by michellerogers on May 9, 2009

Older adults continue cutting everyday expenses to keep up with the economic downturn.  Local senior-care experts warn families to be on alert to make sure seniors aren’t cutting too deeply.  Warning signs include skipping medications, pulling the plug on air conditioning and canceling social outings. 

In a report released by AARP (several months ago) titled “The Economic Slowdown’s Impact on Middle-Aged and Older Americans,” 59 percent of seniors 65 and older surveyed said they’d found it more difficult to pay for essential items such as food, gas and medicine.  Nearly half (47 percent) said they found it more difficult to pay for utilities such as heating, cooling or phone service.  Forty-six percent have reduced the number of times they eat out and 45 percent cut back spending on entertainment.1

Cuts of essential items such as food and medication should be of immediate concern to seniors’ families.   Other reductions in spending can lead to less obvious issues. 

“When seniors’ families live a distance from their loved ones, or when Boomer children are busy trying to make ends meet themselves, an older adult can get in trouble very quickly.  That’s why it’s so important that someone look out for the well-being of seniors to ensure they are safe in their homes and eating properly, taking their medications and able to maintain their appointments and social life.

Falling interest rates, fixed incomes and seniors’ fears of past hardships can influence how they react to the current economic slowdown, according to Sheryl Garrett, CFP®, author of Personal Finance Workbook For Dummies® and several other books on financial planning.  “Some seniors may be running short on money but, for others, there’s always that fear of running out because they lived through the Depression.  They know how ugly it can get.”

 t’s important also for seniors to guard against fraud and too-good-to-be-true offers, Garrett advises.  “Seniors want to get the best that they can from their investments without falling for scams or overselling tactics,” she said.  Older adults also should beware of CDs and fixed annuities that can promise higher interest rates, but force seniors to lock in their money for longer time periods or otherwise put their investments at risk, Garrett noted.  Always get a second opinion, Garrett advises.

Seniors at all income levels may be facing choices they haven’t had to make in the past.  They should know where to go for help before they put themselves or their health at risk.  Area Agencies on Aging, for instance, offer both food and gas assistance, so seniors should contact their local offices if they can’t make ends meet.  And companies such as Home Instead Senior Care can provide transportation assistance and help around the home, and serve as a second set of eyes for seniors’ families.

Families also can play an important role monitoring seniors who have  decided to scale back because of the economy.  Even seemingly innocent decisions, like cutting back a little on groceries or air conditioning, can have a damaging impact.

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