Elderly struggle more with poverty issues

Posted: January 14, 2011 in How We Help, News, Success Stories, Uncategorized

Go to the Danforth Center in Oklahoma City – one of The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma’s five senior citizens centers – and you’ll be in the midst of a fierce competition.

The seniors are decked out in different color T-shirts, some with team names embroidered on. They’re yelling and shouting encouragement to team members as different seniors ply their skill in bowling. After a strike, the team whoops loudly, clapping each other on the back.

The man sitting in the mobile wheelchair is winning. He swoops his right arm back and launches it forward, the bowling ball streaking in a straight line towards the pins. The tiny elderly woman sitting in a chair beside him leans against her cane and watches.

Although many of The Salvation Army senior center guests are physically unable to bowl, they excel at the Wii bowling game. It’s so popular that the centers have started hosting Wii bowling tournaments for the seniors.

Every week, hundreds of elderly citizens visit one of The Salvation Army’s five senior centers for games, crafts, social activities, line dancing, yoga and tai chi and for a hot lunch. Many times, The Salvation Army’s buses travel to their homes to pick them up or take them shopping as well.

The senior programs are amongst the most important programs that The Salvation Army offers. For those living on a fixed income, hunger issues are always a pressing need. For many of the guests, the senior center lunch is the only hot meal they’ll receive in a day… sometimes it’s the only meal they receive.

At The Salvation Army Social Services office, the elderly are allowed to come to The Food Pantry every 10 days for grocery assistance. Why? Because in some cases, these clients only live on Social Security and $12 in food stamps weekly.

For elderly women, poverty is even greater. According to The U.S. Department of Labor:

  • Women are more likely to work in part-time jobs that don’t qualify for a retirement plan. And working women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to take care of family members. Therefore, they work fewer years and contribute less toward their retirement, resulting in lower lifetime savings.
  • Of the 62 million wage and salaried women (age 21 to 64) working in the United States, just 45 percent participated in a retirement plan.
  • On average, a female retiring at age 65 can expect to live another 19 years, 3 years longer than a man retiring at the same age. Savings can increase a woman’s chances of having enough money to last during her retirement.
  • According to the Center for American Progress, the statistics of elder poverty is even more concerning:

    Currently, 3.4 million seniors age 65 and older live below the poverty line. Millions more are barely making ends meet just above the poverty line. While 9.4 percent of seniors had incomes in 2006 below the poverty threshold of $9,669 for an individual, and $12,186 for a couple, nearly a quarter of older Americans (22.4 percent) had family incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line.

    Do you know a senior who could benefit from programs offered by The Salvation Army? Can you reach out to a neighbor or relative who would like to attend a senior center that offers fun, friendship, volunteer opportunities and a meal?

    If so, call The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command at 405-246-1100 to speak to the Senior Department or the Social Services Department.

    Small gestures make a big difference.


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