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A Methodology to Determine Economic Security for Elders

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Publication Date: January 2006

Author(s): Judith Conahan; Ellen A. Bruce; Laura Henze Russell

Funder(s): Retirement Research Foundation (U.S.)

Funder(s): Retirement Research Foundation (U.S.)

Topic: Economics (Economic conditions)
Population and demographics (Older people)

Keywords: Public Policy; Seniors; Aging

Type: Brief

Coverage: Massachusetts


Many Massachusetts elders regularly struggle to make ends meet. Living costs are among the highest in the nation,especially in housing and health care. In the face of rising expenses, many elders' incomes at best see a modest cost of living adjustment each year; they are spending down retirement savings, and/or face growing debt. At the same time, seniors may be prepared for the present but face a challenging future if their life circumstances change due to illness, loss of a spouse, or need for help with daily tasks.

The Elder Economic Security Initiative, through the
development and use of the Wider Opportunities for
Women-Gerontology Institute (GI) National Elder
Economic Security Standard (Elder Standard) methodology,
measures the cost of living for older adults in today's
economy. What is an adequate income for older adults
in Massachusetts to age in place? How does it vary
according to their life circumstances: whether they are
living alone or with a spouse, rent or own their home,
drive a car or use other transportation? How do living
costs change as their health status and life circumstances
change? What happens if they need long-term care to keep
living at home?

The MA Elder Economic Security Standard (Elder Standard),
developed using the WOW-GI National Elder Standard
Methodology, addresses these questions through the
development of a measure of income adequacy for older
adults that measures the costs of aging in place in today's
marketplace. Economic security implies that seniors can
meet their basic needs without income-eligible public
subsidies, such as food stamps, MassHealth (Medicaid),
subsidized housing, or property tax help.

This report presents the Elder Standard for Massachusetts
to benchmark basic costs of living for elder households.
It expands upon its predecessor, On the Edge: Facing a
Challenging and Uncertain Future: The Elder Economic
Security Standard for the Boston Area, by covering
communities across the Commonwealth. It illustrates
how expenses vary both by geographic area, and by
the circumstances of elder households: household size,
homeowner or renter, mode of transportation, health
status, and the impact of need for long-term care. The
expenses are for basic needs of elder households; they are
based on market costs and do not assume any subsidies.