Key Takeaways

  • The COVID-19 pandemic will push between 1.4 and 2.1 million more older Americans into poverty, according to an issue brief from NCOA and the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMASS Boston.

  • Older adults with the least net wealth and who are still in the workforce will likely see some of the greatest impact of COVID-19, as getting ill would cut-off income.

  • These findings underscore the importance of government benefits as a means of buffering financial collapse among older adults.


NCOA analysis points to Depression-era economic insecurity for older adults

Armando Trull
Media Relations Manager

Arlington, VA (April 16, 2020) – The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person ages well, is warning that the financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic will push between 1.4 and 2.1 million more older Americans into poverty, and older adults with the least wealth will be the hardest hit.

That is the sobering conclusion of a recently published NCOA and LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston issue brief that looks at historical data from the 2008 recession and applies those findings to today’s economic and public health crisis.

“Recent history shows us that older adults suffer significant declines in net wealth during large and unanticipated economic downturns,” said Dr. Susan Silberman, NCOA Senior Director, Research & Evaluation. “A case in point is the Great Recession that began with the collapse of financial markets in 2008. A common trend seen across those aged 60 and older, regardless of age group or retirement status, was a decrease in total net wealth and taking on greater debt during times of recession.”

The issue brief also found that retired older adults were better able to weather the financial storm thanks in part to retirement benefits and Medicare. These findings underscore the importance of a societal safety net for older adults during times of economic upheaval.

Although the analysis focused on the potential financial risks to older adults during an impending recession, COVID-19 adds a health component that will likely have devastating consequences for this age demographic on top of any economic impacts.

“We know that health vulnerability and financial vulnerability overlap, which makes it crucial to consider how both of these factors will intersect for our nation’s older adults,” Silberman said. “Taking into account both the economic effects of a recession and the heightened health risk to our older citizens will be vital for navigating the impact of COVID-19 during this time of uncertainty.”

The full issue brief, Economic Insecurity for Older Adults in the Presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic, is available for download.

About NCOA
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the national voice for every person’s right to age well. We believe that how we age should not be determined by gender, color, sexuality, income, or zip code. Working with thousands of national and local partners, we provide resources, tools, best practices, and advocacy to ensure every person can age with health and financial security. Founded in 1950, we are the oldest national organization focused on older adults. Learn more at and @NCOAging.