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Retirement is not “golden” for all older adults. Over 23 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($29,425 per year for a single person). 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

  • Almost 75% of single Social Security recipients aged 65+ depend on Social Security for all or most of their monthly income. (Social Security Administration)
  • More accurate measures of economic wellbeing—including Wider Opportunities for Women’s Elder Economic Security Standard™ 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, which is $11,770 for a single elder.

Income & Employment

  • The average older adult receiving Supplemental Security Income gets just $425 each month. (Social Security Administration)
  • Older women typically receive about $4,000 less annually in Social Security 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. (Wider Opportunities for Women)
  • By January 2012, older workers displaced in the years following the recession were half as likely to have regained employment as the nationwide average. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 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. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Debt & Savings

  • One-third of senior households has no money left over each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses. (Institute on Assets and Social Policy)
  • In 2012, the average credit card debt among adults aged 65+ was $9,283. (Demos)
  • 14% of adults aged 65+ face retirement with negative net worth. (Aging and Bankruptcy, U.S. Courts)

Health & Nutrition

  • Over 27% of older adults living in poverty were at risk for hunger in 2011. (National Foundation to End Senior Hunger)
  • Only one-third of eligible older adults (age 60+) are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).


  • As of December 2011, 16% of older homeowners owed more on their house than it was worth. (AARP)
  • A majority of older adults have unsustainable housing costs, with 59% of older renters and 33% of homeowners with mortgages spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. (AARP)
  • 44% of African American and 37% of Latino seniors either rent or have no home equity. (Institute on Assets & Social Policy)

NCOA’s Role

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

Economic Security Initiative

NCOA’s Economic Security Initiative offers innovative programs in 20 communities to help economically disadvantaged older adults cut through red tape and create a plan to build their own economic stability and security.


NCOA’s EconomicCheckUp® is the nation’s most comprehensive, free online service to help older adults improve their economic security. The site helps older adults find work, cut spending, reduce debt, and use their home equity.

Reverse Mortgage Counseling

NCOA’s Reverse Mortgage Counseling Services Network is one of eight national counseling groups approved by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to provide one-on-one counseling to older homeowners considering a reverse mortgage.

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.