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Arlington, VA (August 10, 2020) – The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, is warning that the financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic will be much worse for older adults living alone, and this could force nearly 3 million older Americans in single households into possible poverty and or greater health risks.

Those are the sobering conclusions of  Potential Financial Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Older Single-Person Households, a new issue brief from NCOA and the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston. The brief is one of a 3-part series that examines historical data from the 2008 recession and applies those findings to today’s economic and public health crisis.

“Recent history shows us what happens to an already vulnerable population of older adults living in single households,” said Dr. Susan Silberman, NCOA Senior Director, Research & Evaluation. “Their far more precarious financial situation is worsened by an economic downturn to a greater degree than older adults living with others. This is only part of the story. Older adults living alone will likely face devastating health impacts related to social isolation.”

The analysis also found that older single person households are predominantly comprised of widows and widowers, and therefore the number of vulnerable older adults living in single households is likely to increase as married couples lose their partners because of the pandemic. 

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.

“It is critically important to maintain a strong social safety net and ensure that people who need to access benefits are able to do so, and to undertake policies that focus on narrowing financial disparities even within the older adult demographic that will face higher COVID-19 related impacts,” Silberman said.

Potential Financial Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Older Single-Person Households, is one of  three white papers, the entire series can be found here.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.