“Financial security is one of the most daunting aspects of aging. There are so many uncertainties and risks that arise when living on a fixed income”

— From White House Conference on Aging Retirement Security Policy briefing

The day-to-day realities of this quote came home to me in conversation at senior coffee last week. Seniors who had just received new property assessments only to find that taxes may increase 10 to 15 percent were justifiably upset.

Then came the news in front page headlines in The Sentinel — “Seniors face a challenging future” — with numerous testimonials by residents predicting tough times following the announcement that Social Security beneficiaries will not be receiving cost-of-living increases in 2016.

It seems lowered gas prices have influenced the inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index.

The Consumer Price Index, which is based on urban wage earners and clerical workers, simply does not reflect how the nearly 65 million Social Security recipients consume. Retirement security is a big worry for us seniors.

Living longer challenges our financial security; we are at increasing risk of outliving our assets. Often, it just doesn’t seem fair — many seniors who are impacted don’t drive, and most are not driving to or from work — or at night. The cost of gasoline is irrelevant to our finances — and we are not clerical or urban workers.

We know for sure that medical costs are increasing much faster than inflation rates, and food costs are also higher. And aging brings the need to hire more caregiving help. The loss in seniors’ buying power is estimated at 22 percent since 2000, even with COLA increases.

I found it interesting that in conjunction with AARP NH, the UNH Center on Aging and Community Living hosted a review of the White House Conference on Aging 2015. Elder justice, along with themes of retirement security and healthy aging, was discussed.

My thoughts about that report? I believe that elder justice should be expanded beyond financial exploitation, abuse and neglect to the vulnerability and injustice of inflation.

Seniors are not the only ones affected. What about their caregivers who are already contributing free service worth millions caring for loved ones?

According to The Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caring, in 2012 43.5 million adult family caregivers cared for someone 50 years of age or older who had limitations in everyday activities.

This invisible workforce provides 37 billion hours of care, which the AARP Public Policy Institute values at $470 billion. That is a massive economic contribution of unpaid work outside the resources provided by Medicare and Medicaid.

Want another really big number? Chris Farrell, contributing economics editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, lifts up nearly $3 trillion — a number which represents the lost wages, Social Security benefits and private pensions for men and women ages 50 and over caring for their parents, according to research by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

They make a pitch to help ease the cost of caregiving and improve the financial security of the caregiver and family through a federal or state tax credit. Helping working caregivers remain employed helps prevent an average lifetime loss of more than $300,000 in income and benefits.

Baby boomers caring for aging parents are hit from many sides, with the lack of a COLA for their loved ones being just one of many issues. They are also trying to plan for their own aging, and the cost of long-term care insurance seems prohibitive, though the promise of greater retirement security is there.

How can we justify, or tolerate, the chasm between the costs of caregiving and other challenges about aging with calls in Washington for sizable cuts in Medicare and Social Security? But, our current system is in jeopardy with more and more boomers filing for Social Security and Medicare.

What are we asking caregivers to do? Saving more and working more aren’t the answers, and the financial impact will only grow in the future. Since the U.S. spends twice as much on health care as other industrialized nations, we should be able and willing to provide retirement security.

Here’s a pipe dream: How about changing the law to provide a more realistic Senior Consumer Price Index to calculate the inflation rate? Should I run that by Bernie Sanders?

Owen R. Houghton of Jaffrey is an aging wellness educator, past chair of the State Committee on Aging, 2015 Vaughn Award recipient and a member of Monadnock at Home. Readers may contact him at nohoughton@myfairpoint.net

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