Key Takeaways

  • Over 15 million older adults aged 65+ are economically insecure, with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. 

  • NCOA's programs help older adults access benefits, explore how to use their home equity wisely, find training and jobs, and better manage their money.

  • Get the facts on economic security for older adults, and why this is an important issue for NCOA.

Over 15 million Americans aged 65+ are economically insecure—living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($25,760 per year for a single person in 2021). These older adults struggle with rising housing and health care bills, inadequate nutrition, lack of access to transportation, diminished savings, and job loss. For older adults who are above the poverty level, one major adverse life event can change today’s realities into tomorrow’s troubles.

Poverty Measures

  • Over 15 million (or roughly 1 in 3) older adults aged 65+ are economically insecure, with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018)
  • Older women are more likely to live in poverty than men as a result of wage discrimination and having to take time out of the workforce for caregiving. (Justice in Aging, 2020)
  • Over half of Black and Hispanic seniors aged 65+ have incomes below 200% of the Federal poverty line. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018)
  • Over 14.8 million, or 4 in 10, older adults are lifted out of poverty by obtaining Social Security benefits. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2020) 
  • More accurate measures of economic well-being—including the Elder Index™ and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy’s Senior Financial Stability Index—show millions of older adults struggling to meet their monthly expenses, even though they’re not considered “poor” because they live above the FPL.

Income & Employment

  • The 2.3 million older adults on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receive, on average, just $475 each month. (Social Security Administration, 2021)
  • 21% of married Social Security recipients and 43% of single recipients aged 65+ depend on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. (Social Security Administration [SSA], 2016)
  • On average, older women received about $9,900 less annually in retirement income in 2016 than older men due to lower lifetime earnings,  time taken off for caregiving, occupational segregation into lower wage work, and other issues. Older women of color fare even worse. (National Institute on Retirement Security, 2016)
  • Nearly 350,000 older adults aged 55-64, and 122,000 aged 65+ who wanted to work were unemployed 27 weeks or longer in 2020. (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], 2020)
  • Older workers of color are most at risk for unemployment, with older African American men twice as likely to be unemployed as older white men. (BLS)
  • Nearly 70% of older workers aged 50+ are likely to experience at least one involuntary job loss, 23% will experience two. (ProPublica & Urban Institute, 2018)

Debt & Savings

Health & Nutrition

  • In 2018, 7.3 million older Americans faced the threat of hunger, representing 10% of adults aged 60+ in the U.S. (Feeding America, 2020)
  • Only 48% of older adults aged 60+ who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are enrolled and receiving benefits. (USDA Food and Nutrition Service, 2020)


  • Older adults aged 65+ spend on average $17,500 annually in housing-related expenses. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019)
  • 9.7 million seniors owe money on a mortgage and/or home equity line of credit. Of these, 30% have payments that exceed one quarter of their income. (Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2018)

NCOA’s Role

NCOA offers several programs and products that provide hope for economically insecure older adults.

Center for Benefits Access

NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access helps community-based organizations find and enroll seniors and younger adults with disabilities with limited means into benefits programs for which they are eligible, so they can remain healthy, secure, and independent. The center develops and shares tools, resources, best practices, and strategies for benefits outreach and enrollment.

Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)

NCOA manages 27 Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) offices under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. SCSEP helps adults aged 55+ return to or remain active in the workforce by providing job training, job search services, and on-the-job experience. 

Age Well Planner

Our Age Well Planner tool lets you answer a few quick questions to get personalized information on meeting your financial and health needs, including through retirement planning, selecting a Medicare plan, and seeing if you qualify for money-saving benefits.