Rethinking Aging - Women's Foundation California

By Alexis Marbach, Program Intern, Women’s Foundation of California

I have a morning ritual. I usually start my day in a haze, hovered over our coffee maker, while I wait for the only thing I genuinely look forward to when I wake up. I stare out the window, wondering what to wear to work and what I’ll pack for lunch. I wave to the elderly man who lives in the apartment facing mine. He stands in his kitchen as well, staring out the window, drinking coffee.

Since working at the Women’s Foundation of California on the Aging Justice Project, I see the man across the apartment from me in an entirely different way. Before I began working as a program intern, collecting national data about aging issues and policy legislation to support the Aging Justice Project grant process, I had never given much thought to aging. I knew it was going to happen, but at 26 it felt far enough away to ignore.

Now I find myself wondering about his options as he gets older: is he able to age in the home and place he chooses? Does he have enough savings to meet his basic needs – food, housing and transportation? How does he get around? California is one of the worst areas of the country to live if you’re a non-driver over the age of 65 – especially if you live in the suburbs or a rural community. As a result, 48% of non-drivers stay home because there isn’t public transportation in their neighborhood, or the transit stop is too far away or difficult to get to for someone using a walker or wheelchair, or transit is simply too expensive for someone who’s living on a fixed income.

I tell myself, at least my neighbor doesn’t live in the East South Central Region of the United States (including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) where 69% of non-drivers stay home because of the inadequate transit assistance or public transit.

Sometimes I am concerned and sympathetic about his aging process and then other times, I get angry because I think about how much harder it is for women who are aging.

Did you know about the tremendous wage gap between males and females in this country? Depending upon income level, in California, a woman can expect to make from $291,000 to a mind-boggling $656,000 LESS than her male counterpart.

You think that sounds bad? Look at Virginia. A woman in Virginia could end up making between $553,000 and $1,019,000 LESS than her male counterpart! What could you do with $1 million dollars?

This wage gap affects a woman’s social security income, ability to save and plan for retirement, and prospects for aging in the way and in the place that she wishes.

What can we do to change this situation? Over the next couple months, I’ll be working with the Women’s Foundation to figure that out. Just as my perception has changed about the challenges facing people as they age, we are working to change the perceptions of policymakers and communities.

One tool currently being implemented is the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, which is already being used by 12 different states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, Michigan, New York and West Virginia). This tool tracks the financial needs of seniors in different counties and shows that seniors are struggling to pay for basic living costs today as a result of rising costs and stagnant or decreasing incomes. Our Aging Justice Project will partner with select organizations across the nation to replicate the public policy work that we’ve been doing for the past 7 years, and ultimately  “equip women advocates with the capacity to articulate policy goals, mobilize constituencies and lobby successfully for policies that ensure everyone can lead fulfilling, healthy and prosperous lives as they age.”

We’ll be sharing what we learn on our blog and our website.

This work is powered by you.

The feminist future we are building together in California is going to be built by all of us sharing our time, our money, and our skills.  Please consider contributing today.

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