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Recession Impact on Lower-Income Adults

  • Published: 2010-09-14 (Revised/Updated 2011-01-25) : AARP.
  • Synopsis: Struggles low income older adults are facing during the current recession and economic times.

Main Document

AARP Survey Looks at Recession's Impact on Lower-Income Adults 45+

Nearly 60% say they are not confident they can pay for basic needs during retirement; 42% rate their health "fair" or "poor," compared to 18% at higher income levels

An AARP report released today for the first time paints a picture of the struggles lower-income older adults are facing during the recession. The AARP Closer Look June 2010 survey found that nearly six in 10 Americans 45+ who make less than $25,000 a year say they are either "not at all" or "not too" confident they will have enough money to pay medical and living expenses in retirement, compared to 36 percent of higher income adults.

More than four in 10 (42 percent) lower-income older adults rate their health as "fair" or "poor," compared to only 18 percent of those who earn more than $25,000 a year. Additionally, many report they are struggling to meet basic needs, like paying for food and electricity, heat and water bills.

"While the recession has been devastating for many older Americans, this recent data indicates lower-income folks are being hit particularly hard," said Jo Ann Jenkins, president of AARP's affiliated charity, the AARP Foundation. "Each day, millions are choosing between essentials like buying groceries or paying for prescriptions. It's a devastating choice that no one should have to make."

Similar to the general population, lower-income older adults have cut back, but they are doing so in greater numbers. Nearly 40 percent had to cancel or postpone needed healthcare or dental treatments in the last six months twice as many as higher-income adults. Twenty-three percent skipped doses, cut pills in half or did not fill prescriptions, compared with 15 percent of higher-income people. Lower-income adults are twice as likely to have looked for more affordable housing in the last six months compared to higher-income levels. And half used their car less to cut down on gas costs.

Additional findings for all income levels indicate the continual struggles older Americans are experiencing in tough economic times:

AARP Foundation ( and AARP Real Relief ( have resources to help lower-income older Americans make ends meet, including federal benefits assistance, money management programs and tips to cut expenses.

AARP Closer Look is a twice-yearly poll to help understand the effect of social and economic changes on baby boomers and older Americans. The full survey is available at


ICR conducted the Closer Look Survey for AARP via telephone between June 9 and June 30, 2010, among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 respondents 45+. One hundred respondents were Hispanic and 100 were African American. The margin of error is +/- 3.35 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

AARP Foundation is AARP's affiliated charity. Foundation programs provide security, protection and empowerment for older persons in need. Low-income older workers receive the job training and placement they need to re-join the workforce. Free tax preparation is provided for low- and moderate-income individuals, with special attention to those 60 and older. The Foundation's litigation staff protects the legal rights of older Americans in critical health, long-term care, consumer and employment situations. Additional programs provide information, education and services to ensure that people over 50 lead lives of independence, dignity and purpose. Foundation programs are funded by grants, tax-deductible contributions and AARP. For more information about AARP Foundation, please log on to

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan social welfare organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.1 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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