The vast majority of the nation’s 54 million adults ages 65 and over participate in Social Security (86%) and Medicare (93%) — social insurance programs designed to provide nearly-universal coverage of the older population.
But what happens when these social insurance benefits, along with retirement payments and savings, are not enough? What about those not eligible for Social Security or Medicare?
They rely on needs-based assistance that support people with limited resources.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 6 older adults participated in a wide range of needs-based assistance programs, according to an analysis of recently released data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).
These numbers reveal the importance of the social safety net for economically vulnerable older adults, a need that may be amplified by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
These findings provide context about the experiences of adults ages 65 and over prior to the pandemic and will serve as a baseline for comparisons as additional data become available.