Current Issue » ParentCare » Vol. 23

ParentCare: Educating Seniors: Bring Your Health… Home

A Column by Kimberly Harmon RN, BSN

Struggling Economy Affecting Seniors More Than Others: Three Tips to Stretch Your Dollars

You don’t need me to tell you that we’re enduring the worst economic times since the Great Depression. We deal daily with the repercussions of the lingering recession: Everything costs more while the value of what we’ve saved declines. It’s scary. And while many of you know this from your own experiences, the struggling economy in fact really does hurt seniors more than others.

In this article we’ll talk a little about the erosion of seniors’ buying power and you’ll get some tips that can help you stretch your precious dollars. 6-handlingmony300dpi-copy

First, the facts: Seniors have lost almost one-third of their buying power since 2000, according to the Annual Survey of Senior Costs, released last month by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL).
In most years, seniors receive a small increase in their Social Security checks, intended to help them keep up with the costs of inflation. But since 2000, the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has increased just 31%, while typical senior expenses have jumped 73%: More than twice as fast.

Some expenses have gone up ridiculous amounts: From 2000-2011, the percent increase in the cost of heating oil (per gallon) was 190%, of natural gas (per gallon) was 171%, 95% for a dozen eggs and 72% for a pound of oranges.

And, readers, it’s likely going to get worse. In 2011, for the second consecutive year, seniors received no COLA. Prior to 2010, seniors had received a COLA every year since 1975, when the automatic COLA was introduced. With seniors forecast to receive a very small COLA next year, these tight economic times are likely to continue.

“To put it in perspective, for every $100 worth of expenses seniors could afford in 2000, they can afford just $68 today,” said Larry Hyland, chairman of The Senior Citizens League.

But let’s not dwell on the bad news. Instead, let’s focus on what we can do to get the most bang for our bucks. Most of you know these tips: My staff shares your strategies with me, and here are the three that I think are most helpful.

1) Control housing costs: These take one of the biggest shares of your income, whether you rent or own. You can reduce home maintenance costs over the long term by having a seasonal maintenance plan and finding a trustworthy “handyman” to implement that plan. Here’s an easy one—read appliance manuals and file them. A lot of manuals contain trouble-shooting sections; you can sometimes avoid a costly service call by trying the suggested solution. Keep manuals filed in a common area, or keep the manual with the appliance. Tape a plastic file sleeve or large manila envelope to an inconspicuous but accessible side of your appliance, and slide in the manual to keep it handy.

2) Use “senior” bargains and benefits: Age has its privileges, and one of them is taking advantage of senior discounts on travel, entertainment, restaurants and shopping, as well as age-related benefits on insurance, prescription drugs, health care and other services. is a good resource for saving on thousands of products and services. Plus, everywhere you go, ask for the Senior Discount.

3) Cut and use grocery coupons. Coupon clippers are always looking for additional ways to save and finding stores that double coupons is one of those ways. In our area, some of the grocery stores that double coupons include Park n Shop, Price Chopper, Star Market, and Stop & Shop. One of our clients even makes coupon clipping into a weekly game of poker!

As always, the Auburn VNA Health Network Team is available for your health and wellness needs with a complete range of home care services. For more information or questions, please call us at 508-791-0081. Be happy, be well and be safe!

Kimberly Harmon is President and CEO of the Auburn VNA Health Network. The AVHN provides more than 19,000 home visits annually to more than 700 individuals in Auburn, Worcester and surrounding towns. Kim welcomes your questions, comments or concerns about any specific health issues. You may reach her at or 508-791-0081.

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