Entries in Senior Citizens (10)


Some Seniors Resist Electronic Social Security Payments

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Glenn Smallwood does not have a cellphone, computer or credit card.  Nor does he have a bank account.  And that’s exactly the way he likes it.

“I guess you could say I’m an old fuddy duddy,” Smallwood, 63, a semi-retired insurance salesman in Clearwater, Fla., told ABC News.  “I’m set in my ways.  I don’t want my money in a bank.  I keep my money in my pocket.”

So when Smallwood received a notice from the U.S. Treasury Department informing him that as of March 2013, his Social Security checks would be directly deposited into his bank account -- or he could enroll in the government’s Direct Express Debit MasterCard program -- he was decidedly unhappy.

“I don’t think the federal government has the right to tell me that I have to have a checking account or a debit card,” Smallwood said, adding that he cashes checks at Wal-Mart, pays his rent by money order and has no plans -- or desire -- to stop.

Smallwood lives in one of the nation’s 10 million households that are unbanked, according to figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

While waivers are automatically granted for anyone who was 90 years old or older on May 1, 2011 -- as well as people living in remote locations or those who are mentally incapable of handling their own affairs -- Dick Gregg, the fiscal assistant secretary of the Treasury, acknowledged that these waivers are rare.

“Most individuals that receive checks will drive to a local bank to cash them and individuals with mental impairments will designate a representative payee that will sign up for electronic payment,” he said.

He added that the initiative to have all benefits payments made electronically will save an additional $1 billion in taxpayer money over 10 years.  It is also safer, faster and more reliable than receiving paper checks, which can be lost, stolen or delayed.

But John Runyan, executive director of Consumers for Paper Options, an advocacy group funded by “paper-based communications interests” -- which includes the Envelope Manufacturers Association, the American Forest & Paper Association and paper companies -- believes the mandate is unfair to seniors like Smallwood who don’t want to change.  

”Our goal is to get the federal government to recognize fully that there is certain type of information that should continue to be provided on paper if the consumer wants them, and that should be the consumer choice,” he told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Seniors Have Both High Hopes and Major Concerns About the Future

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite tough economic times, at least one group of Americans is bullish about their future.  They’re the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

In a poll conducted of 2,250 people ages 60 and older by the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today, 75 percent of baby boomers believe life will continue to get better, due in large part to people working longer and advancements in healthcare.

However, their optimism is also tempered by some realism about the way the economy has stagnated, with a third of this group worried that they won’t be able to pay for long-term care, while 20 percent say that a major financial downturn would seriously affect their fiscal situation.

Just over seven in ten seniors earning under $30,000 annually, which is considered low income, admit to a lingering health problem and that they’re less likely to exercise than their more financially secure counterparts.

Meanwhile, about a fifth of seniors over the age of 65 are still working either full- or part-time -- some because they want to, others because they have to in order to make ends meet.

“Aging in place” is another goal of most seniors -- that is, living in their own homes.  Most people in their 60s say that it’s feasible to live independently, although less than half of folks in their 70s see that as a realistic possibility.

There’s another major concern brought up by the respondents in the survey: the availability of resources and services in their communities.  More than a fourth of people in their 60s are worried that a lack of these services will make it more difficult to “age in place.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Cell Phone for Seniors Released

The Clarity Pal. Image credit: Clarity(NEW YORK) -- A cell phone for seniors: it’s not a brand new concept, but there’s a new one hitting the market very soon.

Clarity, which is a division of Plantronics, has just announced its new Pal phone for seniors. The device is a very basic phone, but has features specifically tailored for senior citizens.

“We are seeing more seniors using cellphones. Over 75 percent of them use cell phones, though they use them for more security and peace of mind,” Jamie van den Berg, VP at Clarity, told ABC News.

The phone is lightweight and has a rubberized keyboard, making it easier for users suffering from arthritis. It also has a tone control and higher amplification so those who are hard of hearing can adjust the audio profiles to a higher range. A talking keyboard and talking caller ID are built-in for the visually impaired. Lastly, the menus are very simple to navigate, van den Berg said.

However, the one thing that might stand in the way of the Pal and its users might be the distribution model. The Pal will be available only online at first, through Clarity’s website. The $99 phone is also sold unlocked, meaning you’d need to sign up for service at a carrier, like T-Mobile and AT&T, and pop the SIM card in. Van Den Berg did say that Clarity has partnered with PureTalk USA for some offerings and that he assumes some younger customers will help set up the phone for their older parents.

The Jitterbug, a competing cell phone for seniors, is available through brick and mortar retailers like Best Buy and WalMart.

And while Van den Berg said he is very interested in teaming up with carriers, he is finding it hard to do so. “We’re finding carriers are focused so much on 3G and data. This population doesn’t use as much data as others — it’s not the focus for them.”

The Pal will be available at the end of the month through

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Many Seniors Still Paying Off Student Loans

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Many seniors are still struggling to pay off student debt.

The Washington Post reports new research from the New York Federal Reserve shows Americans 60 years of age and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans.  Some of this debt has been held for decades, but others took out loans when they went back to college later in life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supercommittee Deadline: Seniors Spared from Bulk of Automatic Cuts

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With less than three days before its midnight deadline, the 12-member Congressional supercommittee is expected to announce on Monday that they did not reach a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years.

While Congressional aides stress a last-minute Hail Mary pass is still possible, deep divides over taxes are still shaking the foundations of any prospective -- and as of now unlikely -- deal.

This race-the-clock game has already played out twice this year, but this time there is no looming government shutdown or imminent debt default.  Instead, there are $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts split evenly between defense and domestic spending that will take effect in 2013 in the absence of a deal.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained on Capitol Hill last week that the cuts will be "devastating" to the U.S. military.

The automatic cuts may not be so devastating on the non-defense spending side of the equation, however. Both Medicaid and Social Security are spared from the funding reductions and Medicare cuts are limited to 2 percent of the entitlement program’s budget.

Budget hawks looking for significant spending reductions herald the automatic cuts as real deficit-reduction.  And entitlement program defenders claim the limited cuts -- which include exceptions for the poor and disabled -- are less damaging than any that are likely to come out of a supercommittee deal.

“I think failure is a success,” said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the conservative CATO Institute.  “I think that a supercommittee that does not come to an agreement is more likely to achieve real cuts than one that does.”

Under the automatic cuts, or sequestration, Medicare will lose about $123 billion between 2013 and 2021.  But that entire amount will come out of the pockets of doctors and hospitals, not senior citizens.

That doesn’t mean the many-billion-dollar cuts will be painless.

Tanner said that slashing the amount the federal government reimburses health care providers who care for Medicare enrollees could make it more difficult for senior citizens to find doctors that will care for them.

“About 12 percent of physicians already will not accept Medicare patients and a larger number are not accepting new patients,” Tanner said.  “If you further reduce reimbursements, you’re liable to find additional physicians saying it’s just not worth it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Age Gap Widens Dramatically in Economic Well-Being, Study Finds

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The rich aren’t just getting richer, but wealthy older Americans are noticeably better off than their counterparts from three decades ago in several areas like income, employment, home ownership and housing values.

A new study from Pew Research Center analyzed the economic well-being of current older and younger adults to those in the past and found that the age-based wealth gap sky-rocketed 47:1 in 2009 compared to 10:1 in 1984.

In 2009, the median net worth of households headed by adults aged 65 and older was 42 percent more than the same age group in 1984.  In contrast, the net worth of households headed by an adult under 35 in 2009 was 68 percent less than the same age group in 1984.

“These age-based gaps widened significantly during the sour economy of recent years, but all key trends are several decades old, indicating that they are also linked to long-term demographic, social and economic changes that have affected different age groups in different ways,” Pew said in a statement.

These changes include structural changes in the labor and housing markets, delayed marriage and retirement, and the changing racial and ethnic composition of the population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Seniors Will See a Little More in Their Social Security Checks

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Social Security Administration announced Tuesday that benefits would be boosted starting in January for the first time since 2009.

It's expected that the increase will be around 3.5 percent.

At present, the average is $1,175 a month. With the increase, recipients will see about an extra $38. The current maximum is $2,346 a month, or $541 a week.

Senior citizens who receive federal benefits did not get cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) during the past couple of years because inflation was so low.  But due to a sharp jump in consumer prices, the government is adjusting retirees’ paychecks to help offset rising inflation.

There's just one problem: Medicare premiums will also rise next year meaning that the small bump in Social Security checks will have to go toward paying increased healthcare costs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Recession Pounding Older Americans, GAO Reports

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The economic downturn has been tough on nearly everyone, including Americans 55 and older who thought they had an easy road to retirement before the recession struck in late 2007.

Barbara Bovbjerg, a managing director of the Government Accountability Office, told a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday that since that time, unemployment rates doubled for those in the 55 plus group while many were forced to spend much of their savings to sustain their lifestyle.

According to Bovbjerg, "The Great Recession has had a profound impact on older adults.  Many have lost employment and wealth, and they have little time to make up the difference before retirement."

Workers who found themselves out of work could start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62 but only received 75 percent of monthly benefits, compared to those willing to wait until age 66.

About three in 10 Americans in 2007 started collecting benefits at age 62 and the percentage has grown slightly each year since.

The GAO report also said the situation is becoming more desperate for many older Americans who find themselves delaying necessary medical treatment because they can't afford it, while some have given up saving money all together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


AARP Appears to Switch Stance on Social Security Cuts 

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The AARP, a powerful nonprofit organization that fights for the rights of individuals over the age of 50, appeared to be easing its longstanding opposition to cuts to Social Security benefits in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. But the group has backed away from those comments.

"The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," John Rother, AARP's long-time policy chief told the newspaper.

But Friday afternoon, the group issued a statement, citing "inaccurate media stories" on its Social Security stance: "AARP is as committed as we've ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today's seniors and strengthening it for future generations. Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security."

The newspaper reported that the well-funded, 37 million member-strong organization planned to host town hall meetings across the United States to sell disgruntled seniors on the change.

The real-time reaction on social media to the Journal story was critical of the organization, which for years has steadfastly opposed cutting benefits under the federal retirement program. Congress is currently considering moves to shore up the Social Security trust fund, which is expected to run out of cash when the Baby Boomer generation is in full retirement mode.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


AARP Changes Stance on Cutting Social Security Benefits

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senior citzens lobbying group AARP is said to be abandoning its long-time opposition to cuts in Social Security benefits.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the major change of heart came after a debate within the organization.  AARP leaders concluded that changes for the entitlement program are inevitable.

"The ship was sailing.  I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," John Rother, AARP's long-time policy chief, told the Journal.

The policy switch may prove to be deeply unpopular with many AARP members.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio