On September 13, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual reports on income and poverty in the U.S. While the overall poverty rate was approximately the same as 2020, people aged 65 and older were the one age group to see a statistically significant rise in poverty at 10.3% in 2021, up from 8.9% in 2020. This translated into almost 1 million more older adults living in poverty. Another measure of poverty—the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)—found a higher poverty rate of 10.7% for older adults. The SPM is considered by many to be a more accurate measure of poverty because it includes noncash income and other expenses, such as medical costs, not counted in the official measure. Older adults were again the only age group in the SPM with a statistically significant rise in poverty.
Senior Solutions has been in the forefront of tackling senior poverty in southeastern Vermont for nearly 50 years, and our efforts are paying off. Only two years ago, just 40% of Windham County seniors who were eligible for 3SquaresVT food benefits had applied and were receiving benefits to help them meet their nutritional needs. According to figures released by Vermont’s Economics Services Division, that figure now stands at 53%. While there is still a long way to go, that is a significant jump – a reflection of both the reality of a difficult economic environment, and proactive efforts to reach, educate and engage our seniors to help them obtain the benefits to which they are entitled.
Similarly, a recent Senior Solutions campaign to encourage seniors throughout our area to participate in seasonal fuel assistance has had a phenomenal response: in just two weeks, more than 200 senior households have reached out to Senior Solutions for assistance with this program. We continue to meet the challenge to ensure that every senior household is fuel and food secure.