An unwelcome worry in later life

In my six years working with the homeless, I forget about the normal life challenges that face specific “normal” groups of people, as I’m focused on addicted and mentally ill persons. Yes everyday life cycle challenges are present for these folks as well, including the challenges that most elderly people face.

NPR ran a story about the elderly homeless not long ago, and last week, I did a quick informal survey of some of the people in my center.  I asked the age of the first six people I saw: 44, 50, 39, 41, 48, and 64 years old. I went out an hour later and asked the first four (different) people I saw. They were 49, 65, 51, and 54.

20% of my sample was over 60 and 50% of my sample was over 50. Just a visual scan suggests to me that most of my homeless clients are in their 50s. They are grandparents. They are losing their teeth and going through menopause and getting colonoscopies – all while living in a shelter.

There may be several reasons that there are more elderly homeless.  The economy is one reason, the high cost of medical care is another, and the lack of affordable housing, which I covered last week, is a third. It may be a exacerbated by individualism and social isolation.

What do you think can be done about this?  Perhaps the health care changes next year will address part of this challenge, maybe the economy will turn… However, as the number of elderly homeless and impoverished increase – even begin to include you and me – a more concentrated effort may be desired.