In putting together our Mature Living special section, we came across many ideas that challenged our preconceptions about seniors.
For instance, people buying homes in active adult communities, such as Sun City, include the oldest members of what we call “Gen X,” those people born from 1965 through 1979. It’s a reminder that the bar of generations is constantly moving.
And what it is moving toward can be scary.
Most of us work hard to grow from dependent children to independent adults, and to look down the road to a future where that independence may have to be sacrificed for some reason seems a sad outcome – one that many of us go kicking and screaming against.
When MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger announced its partnership with Jewish Family & Children’s Service locally (see Page 18), it offered some statistics to illustrate why its Solutions to Senior Hunger program – which seeks to connect eligible seniors with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – was important and necessary.
• One in seven seniors nationally live in poverty.
• About 5.4 million seniors are considered food insecure, which means they are struggling to afford a nutritionally adequate diet.
• Food-insecure seniors are 40 percent more likely to suffer congestive heart failure.
About 60 percent of eligible seniors nationwide do not apply for SNAP, and with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day through 2029, that’s a problem with some urgency. In Arizona, about 8.9 percent of seniors lived below the federally defined poverty line in 2013. That year, the poverty line was $11,490 for a single-person household. (For a family of two, that would be $16,520, and $26,580 for a family of four.)
And when you consider the rising costs of health care as one ages and the hassle of having to find transportation around a vast, car-driven geographic area like the Valley once one has to give up the car keys, seniors and people in younger demographics can be forgiven if they find themselves looking forward in dread.
The good news is that with some coordination and goodwill, almost any burden can be made lighter, almost any challenge can be conquered.
While it doesn’t have to do with seniors specifically, we’re heartened by how much the Thanksgiving meal effort at Congregation Beth Israel accomplishes with a fraction of the communal resources available. The congregation’s volunteers delivered 776 meals to 329 locations on Thanksgiving morning, at a cost of about $7,000, funded almost entirely by congregant donations. Similar successes, we know, are being accomplished by congregations and groups across the Valley, showing the value of having a plan and working the plan.
As Jews, we all have a responsibility for one another, and if we come together, we can make it easier for each generation of seniors to know that despite legitimate concerns that can be daunting, they will find that others have their back and that should they lose their precious independence, their dependency will not burden us.