Option 1: Pity the older Minnesotan dependent on relatives and other caregivers and public assistance to provide essential resources or services. Option 2: Focus on the economic status of older people who should in theory be able to purchase the services and care they want and need, when and where they want. Elder-Nomics, a unique data-driven program initiated by the Minnesota Women Consortium, opts for #2; the Consortium and its partners are working unstintingly to share the data and stories collected.
Briefly stated, the Consortium has unique data on the true cost of living for Minnesota elders – basically twice the federal poverty level. The data covers every county and, within that, data for singles, couples, renters, homeowners still paying on a mortgage and those with mortgage paid off, for those in good, fair, and poor health, for average costs of transportation, housing, food, and out-of-pocket medical care.”
The Consortium has also studied in detail the financial impact on caregivers who leave lucrative positions and terminate benefits in order to provide care for the elderly who have “have just enough money so they qualify for nothing.”
At the same time Consortium staff and volunteers have monitored government action at many levels, e.g. opposing deep cuts to the state Renter’s Credit tax rebate which helps elders not eligible for any special low income programs such as heating assistance or home care. Bonnie Watkins, Executive Director of the Consortium, reports that “research shows that this rebate is spent locally on necessities such as groceries, laundry detergent, or a visit to the dentist.”
A priority of the Elder-Nomics campaign is to capture the real stories of older adults in their communities, encouraging conversation at every level around the economics of caregiving, and engaging individuals and organizations.
Anticipated outcomes include policy change on the part of governments and employers, and increased awareness of the need for self-advocacy and financial planning on the part of individuals and supportive organizations. The long term goal is “to move beyond ;preventing the descent of elderly into poverty’ to show that sound economic policy for people of all ages leads to economic security in one’s later years.”
The Minnesota Women’s Consortium is not acting alone on the Elder-Nomics project. Key partners include Mature Voices Minnesota in collaboration with the National Council on Aging. Elder-Nomics is a work in process in which the Consortium and its partners are using every known communications medium to reach agencies, elderly Minnesotans and those who are responsible for anticipating and meeting their needs.
The best way to keep abreast of ongoing Elder-Nomics activities is to monitor the websites of Minnesota Women Consortium and Mature Voices Minnesota. These sites will link to state and local agencies, corporations and nonprofits working on the issues related to the independence and welfare of older Minnesotans.