The Tavis Smiley Show’s “Poverty in America” – Seniors

The Tavis Smiley Show

Story from The Tavis Smiley Show. Listen to audio above for full report.

Although the poverty rate for seniors has remained stable over the last several years at 9.7 percent, millions of other older Americans struggle to make ends meet every day. 

About 9 million older adults don’t know where their next meal is coming from — unsure whether to pay for medications or food. On average, seniors are spending $1,500 less per year on food, while spending about $3,000 more per year on health care and insurance, comapred to seniors 10 years ago, according to data from the census bureau.

Seniors spend less on food to fund healthcare.

Government programs like Social Security have successfully kept about 14 million senior citizens above the poverty line, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. But they’re becoming increasingly costy and are facing mounting criticism from politicians.

“We know that government programs such as these make a difference in poverty,” says Patrick McCarthy, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “However government cannot do it alone.”

McCarthy would like to see changes in the private sector as well.

Older Americans ages 50 to 59 who have lost work and don’t yet qualify for social programs have been especially hard hit, says Emily Allen, vice president of the AARP foundation. Allen and McCarthy note that lack of job security and the unwillingness of the private sector to hire have negatively impacted Baby Boomers.

“The reality is that a lot of this poverty is being driven by massive losses on the job front and by the long-range erosion of pay,” says Patrick McCarthy, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “They have fewer benefits, they’re less likely to be in stable jobs with more turnover — all of [these factors] have swollen the ranks of those who live on the edge of poverty.”

Allen agrees.

“We’ve got to have Social Security and Medicare secure,” Allen says. People are really lacking that social safety net right now and truly falling through the cracks of the system.”

Learn more at the  Tavis Smiley Show’s Web site. Don’t miss our look at how poverty affects children and families. Also, make sure to learn about how poverty is leaving 1 in 6 Americans hungry.


The Tavis Smiley Show” is a weekly show offering a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with feature reports and regular commentators. “The Tavis Smiley Show” is produced by Tavis Smiley productions, and distributed nationwide by PRI.

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