The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) has long been used to measure poverty and establish eligibility standards for benefit programs. It is a flawed system that does not account
for geographic differences in cost of living, among other factors. Furthermore we know that many older Americans whose income exceeds that of the FPL ($11,670 for 1 person,
$15,730 for 2 people in 2014) are struggling to make ends meet. The Elder Economic Security Index or Elder Index is a measure of the cost of living for elder households to age in place (WOW;
Doing without Economic Insecurity and Older Americans). The Elder Index was developed through a collaborative effort of Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston. It is a tool that can be used by individuals planning ahead, by advocates and by public policy makers. It represents a benchmark of economic security or insecurity for a given
area. The Elder Index is a basic budget. Discretionary expenses such as recreation, travel, eating out and gifts are not factored in, neither are proceeds from benefit programs.
The findings from the Elder Index are both helpful and disconcerting. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that one out of three older Americans is economically insecure. Those figures skew higher for single elders, women, racial minorities and renters. In addition many elders find themselves in the precarious position of being one medical or housing crisis from economic insecurity. One way the NCOA is working to address these issues affecting its constituency is by making BenefitsCheckUp available at no cost to all older households. BenefitsCheckUp is an online screening instrument which includes more than 2,000 public and private benefit programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Based upon the personal and financial information input by participants, BenefitsCheckUp
notifies them of potentially money saving benefit programs for which they may be eligible. BenefitsCheckup(www.
benefitscheckup) can be accessed on your home computer, a computer at the Senior Center, with or without help from me. I am also able to make available information from the Elder Index that shows the economic security of older Massachusetts residents in comparison to the rest of the country and that of older Worcester County residents in relation to the rest of the state.
Jocelyn Ehrhardt, MSW Outreach Coordinator
DON’T IGNORE YOUR MEDICARE MAIL!
It’s that time of year again! If you have a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan (HMO, PPO), you should be receiving information from your plan
by the end of September. It is important to understand and save this information because it explains the changes in your plan for 2015. During the annual Medicare Open Enrollment
(October 15 - December 7), you will have a chance to CHANGE your plan for next year. SHINE Counselors can help you understand your plan changes, as well as other
options you may have. Make your SHINE appointment early!
DO NOT WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE!
Trained SHINE volunteers offer free, confidential counseling on all aspects of Medicare and related health insurance programs. To schedule a SHINE appointment,
call your local Senior Center. For other SHINE related matters, call 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636), then press or say 3. Once you get the SHINE answering machine, leave
your name and number. A volunteer will call you back, as soon as possible.
Counselors: Pauline O’Bray/Linda Warren
SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Everyone) appointments are available with our SHINE Counselors. Please call the Senior Center at 508-393-5035 to schedule your appointment.