One Year of Better Directions
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One Year of Better Directions

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September 26, 2012

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Get more info on the Better Directions project, and read the story of someone we’ve helped.

Many older Americans who are struggling economically don’t believe it is possible to gain a measure of financial well-being at their age. Some have been battered by debt, while others have been pummeled by rising prices, or preyed upon by so-called "payday" lenders and unscrupulous debt consolidation scammers.

One year ago, NCOA partnered with the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to launch Better Directions, a major national initiative to help seniors achieve economic security. The effort links community development credit unions (CDCUs) with NCOA’s economic casework sites to connect financially vulnerable seniors with money and debt management services, housing assistance, benefits, health insurance counseling, and more.

Who’s Being Served?

Since beginning the effort in late 2011, Better Directions has helped nearly 400 older adults get on a path toward economic security. Among those served:

  • One third was between the ages of 55 and 61.
  • 46% were people of color.
  • Only a third of participants owned their homes outright.
  • Only half were retired; 26% were unemployed, and the rest were either working or seeking employment.

How Have They Been Helped?

Better Directions participants approaching an Economic Security Service Center are screened for benefits and other supportive services, and referred to CDCUs for helping with banking, loans, and debt consolidation services. Participants who enter the program through CDCUs receive similar referrals to economic security sites for assistance applying for programs that can help free up their income and reduce expenses.

In the past year:

  • Nearly a third of participants got help submitting applications for core benefits programs for older adults, and 92% had those applications accepted.
  • Participants accessed benefits that freed up, on average, an additional $232 a month in their budgets.
  • 71% of those who were referred to CDCUs opened a savings account, and 29% secured a debt consolidation loan.

These results are preliminary; Better Directions will continue to expand its work and reach more vulnerable older adults in the coming year.

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