As the unstable U. S. economy continues to cause fiscal hardship to many Americans, the elderly people are amongst the most badly hit.
Official statistics show that the number of elderly people who use food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has risen to 8 percent. Furthermore, the number of people participating in SNAP programs is now over 45 million, up from 31 million in September, 2008 when the U.S. went into recession.
Another key USDA program for feeding the elderly is the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which plays a pivotal role in improving the quality of day care for poor children and elderly adults by making food more affordable for many low-income families.
"Through CACFP, more than 3.2 million children and 112,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the care they receive," Aaron Lavallee, Communications Coordinator for the USDA, told Xinhua.
Data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) shows that the unemployment rate for people aged 55 or older is 7 percent, nearly half of whom have been unemployed for over 26 weeks. The all-time record of unemployment rate for this section of American society was 7.2 percent in December, 2009.
The USBLS also reports that, when compared to the 16-24 age group and the 25-54 age group, those aged 55 and above are more tenacious in their search for work. The jobless who are aged 55 or older on average spend 35 weeks, or well over half a year, looking for a job, compared to 30 weeks spent by those aged 25 to 54, and 23 weeks spent by those aged 16 to 24.
"There's a lack of jobs available, not just for us elderly, but for everybody," said Lisa Deloucas, 53, who lives in the Tampa suburban town of Lutz. "I'm watching neighbors packing up and abandoning their homes because they simply can't afford to make their monthly mortgage payments."
Some elderly people are worried about paying their monthly bills. "Basically, our money just doesn't go as far as it used to," said Berney Hamm, 74, a retired law enforcement officer and psychiatrist in Land O' Lakes, Florida.
"I used to have enough money, after paying my bills, to send me comfortably into the following month. Now, three or four times a year, I have to dip into my savings," Hamm said.
"I'm not sure if the elderly's economic problems are ever going to be resolved in this country. I don't see any resolution. More jobs are going to help, but not for us, the elderly, because we're not looking for jobs anymore. I and my other elderly friends are looking for ways to supplement our fixed incomes, but we're not sure how to do so," he added.
Some U.S. elderly people blame U.S. politicians in Washington and unions for causing the economic problems. "I blame politicians and the unions for our troubles," said Patricia Hunter, 67, a retired postal service worker who lives in rural Pasco County, Florida.
Hunter said she is angry that "the union people have negotiated such high salaries for their members that the companies employing these people have a tough time staying in business."
Hunter, a member of the First Baptist Church of Lutz, has witnessed the increased need by her church to feed more people in poverty. "At the end of every month, we feed about 50 to 60 people. In the middle of every month, we have to ask our members for more and more food donations to make sure that there's enough food," she told Xinhua.
Many elderly Americans urged the U.S. government and Congress, whose deep division nearly led to the first U.S. default of debts in August, to take unified concrete actions to lead the U.S. economy out of its current troubles.
"It's going to take a combination of the Congress and the President" to lead the U.S. back to a stable economic status. They need to change the tax system, to modify it and make it more modern to more people's lives," Hamm added.
Tom Browder, 67, a former Ford car and truck sales manager living in Lutz, warned that President Barack Obama could lose the votes of the elderly people if he fails to change the current situation.
"If Obama and the Democrats don't get the economy in a better state soon, they're going to lose their jobs," Browder said.