Survey: Middle-aged, Older Americans Struggling During Downturn

While Congress debates an economic recovery bill, and as older Americans are staying in the workfoce longer, many middle-aged and older Americans are finding it difficult to stay above water. According to a recent AARP survey, over half of people 45 and older are having difficulty paying for the basics, such as medicine and utilities with many fearing losing their jobs and health care in 2009. Survey findings ring particularly true in Illinois, where unemployment rates have jumped to 7.6 percent, while the national average is the highest in decades.

People are looking to their lawmakers for help, with 83 percent of those surveyed believing the government should help people protect health care coverage for those who have lost their jobs. Eight out of 10 want the government to extend unemployment benefits, and tackle soaring health care costs.

"Across the nation and here in Illinois more people are struggling to pay for necessities and are very worried about what the future holds when it comes to employment and health care," said Bob Gallo, state director for AARP in Illinois. "People expect their lawmakers to step up and help deliver some relief to the crisis most families are experiencing."

With the bill currently before the Senate, AARP is urging them to improve upon the House version of the recovery legislation by providing assistance to states to protect health care home and community based services for the most vulnerable people and to provide seniors who no longer work with additional economic relief. AARP has worked to ensure the economic recovery legislation extends unemployment benefits and provides health care reforms aimed at bringing costs down and increasing access.

The survey, "A Year-End Look at the Economic Slowdown's Impact on Middle-aged and Older Americans," provides an update to a survey conducted in April 2008. Key findings from the AARP survey include:

• 52 percent had trouble paying for food, gas, and medicine, while 45 percent had trouble paying for utilities. 
• 31 percent thought it was likely they would lose their job in 2009. 
• 55 percent are worried about being able to afford health care in 2009. 
• 31 percent percent feared losing their health insurance in 2009. 
• 9 percent had lost their jobs during the past 12 months (nearly double the rate from April 2008).

The full survey can be found online at http://www.aarp.org/research/economy/trends/economic_slowdown_09.html.

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