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

Arlington, VA (April 16, 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 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 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.