“In the early 1990s, only 11 percent of the adult homeless population was aged 50 and over. That percentage was up to 37 by 2003. Today half of America’s homeless are over 50.” – The Conversation US
Being homeless in America is now more likely to happen after decades of work. Decades ago, homeless was more likely to be temporary and happen to the young. Eventually, hard work and a bit of luck would succeed; and young people were resilient enough to survive the experience. Now, older Americans who’ve lost income because they lost a job, or have lost a house because their medical bills were too expensive are now becoming homeless. Becoming homeless when older exacerbates health issues, which also exacerbates finding a job. The situation becomes more threatening as vulnerabilities compound. In the two year study referenced in the report, 14 of 350 participants died – a high attrition rate.
(Click on the photo for the link.)
There are all manner of possible factors at play here. Might the aging of homelessness indicate an underlying dysfunction in generations beginning with the boomers? The article states that “people born in the second half of the baby boom (1955-1964) have had an elevated risk of homelessness compared to other age groups throughout their lives.” Is there some common cluster of maladaptation or incompetence in this generation? This has also been identified as the first generation that may be less healthy than their parents. This generation, and subsequent ones, grew up with industrial food, the expansive post-WWII introduction of new chemicals into just about everything we touch or consume, time outdoors replaced by time in front of electronic screens, automobiles replacing walking and public transit, air conditioning removing us from front porches and social interactions during warm weather, perhaps a readier supply of illegal drugs…the list can go on. However, probably of greater impact are systemic economic forces, the removal of protective regulations, and the concentration of wealth in our society. The huge contribution of medical expenses to bankruptsies (see Public Citizen’s data) makes me wonder what homlessness/dependence on family was like for the older generation before the introduction of Medicare in the 1960s. Is the aging of homelessness new, or have we reverted to an earlier era, one that we sought to address once before? Can we address it now?
I don’t wanna talk about it.
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