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Statement: Social Security cost-of-living adjustment not enough to cover true cost of aging

The following is a statement from Ramsey Alwin, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), on today’s announcement of the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2023:

“Older adults on Social Security will get a much-awaited COLA increase of 8.7% next year. While this increase is historic and needed, it is also inadequate for the millions of older Americans who face skyrocketing housing and health care costs across the country. People age 65+ are the only group for which poverty increased last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We now have almost 6 million older adults who cannot age with dignity. This is a clear indication that our nation’s support programs are not meeting today’s realities.

“As always, poverty is higher for women and people of color. Many of them had low wages throughout their working lives, which means they have lower Social Security benefits. The average Social Security retirement benefit in January 2022 was about $1,600, but many are lucky if they have even that. One in four of those receiving Social Security depend on it for 90% of their income. We need to make Social Security more responsive to the needs and circumstances of women by eliminating remaining gender inequities.

“We need a better measure of the true cost of living for older adults. Using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the COLA increase is inadequate. The Elder Index is a more accurate measure of the income older adults need to meet their basic needs. Developed by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Elder Index includes the costs of housing, health care, transportation, and food. It is the only adequacy measure that is designed specifically for older people.

“Through our leadership of the Equity in Aging Collaborative, NCOA is working to advance the Elder Index as a critical way to modernize how we measure poverty for older adults. Our goal is to ensure that everyone can age well, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background.”

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