Besides coronavirus, vulnerable seniors face 2 other challenges

Ben Werschkul
DC Producer

As if the health concerns from coronavirus weren’t enough, advocates are warning that many senior citizens also facing a web of other worries as the global pandemic drags on.

“Clearly older adults right now in the United States are at the epicenter of the COVID-19 discussion,” said Anna Maria Chavez of the National Council on Aging during an appearance on Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

Chavez’s group mission is to help people meet the challenges of aging. It works with nonprofits and businesses and the government to provide services and advocacy. She appeared as part of Yahoo Finance’s ongoing partnership with the Funding Our Future campaign, a group of organizations advocating for increased retirement security for Americans.

A study by the Congressional Research Service found that, even with the support provided by Social Security, approximately 9.2% of Americans 65 and older still had income below the poverty thresholds in 2017. That’s a total of 4.7 million people.

“They were going to struggle in retirement and many of them were having to continue working,” Chavez said, adding that many older adults were already one incident away from poverty even before the current crisis. 

Seniors are at a significantly higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19, according to the CDC: “8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older,” according to the CDC.

‘We call it fake friends’

In addition to health concerns and financial worries, more and more scams are popping up.

Things have gotten so bad that the Federal Trade Commission has tried different ways to get consumers to pay attention, including a scam bingo card to highlight many of them, which often target senior citizens and have become more prevalent during the current pandemic.

“There are bad actors in the environment right now,” said Chavez. “We call it fake friends, fake organizations calling up to say, ‘Hey, I have got some financial services I wanted to provide for you right now.’” Scammers oftentimes pitch fraudulent retirement or investment ideas.

The just-passed $2.2 trillion stimulus package will provide a range of benefits to help struggling seniors, including unemployment insurance (which, in most states, is open to seniors who have lost their jobs).

Chavez also points to services to help struggling seniors they might not know about: “Many older adults don't realize they may qualify for what we call SNAP, what used to be called food stamps,” she said. The National Council on Aging operates a site, benefitscheckup.org, to help seniors check what services they’re eligible for.

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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