By: Amber C. Christ, Carol M. Sewell, and Sandra K. Fitzpatrick. Published by: California Women’s Law Center, California Commission on the Status of Women, and Girls California Commission on Aging. Published in 2016
This policy paper summarizes the key issues facing poor older women in California and serves as a road map for policy makers, aging advocates, advocates for women, academia, and community leaders. California’s older adult population will nearly double over the next two decades. Currently, one in five single older women live below the federal poverty level, and another 32.2 percent are unable to cover their basic living expenses. Women are more vulnerable to elder abuse, with nearly 66 percent of victims being female. Low income and elder financial abuse can also impact older adults’ eligibility for and receipt of public benefits like Medi-Cal.
The facts presented in this study bring forth questions about elder justice, a concept that speaks to assuring the rights and equitable treatment of the elderly in all aspects of life. Do elders in poverty have equal access to sufficiently funded safety net programs that address their health and social service needs? Is the justice system able to accommodate the needs of poor elders, or are they shut out of the system due to their inability to access legal assistance or prevented by disability from even traveling to the court to file documents or attend hearings?
The policy brief concludes with a call to action by recommending: adopting a better measure of poverty for older adults, improving economic security, strengthening supports for family caregivers, expanding and improving elder justice resources, and securing state and local government commitment to older adults. The brief also asserts that a strong working relationships between Adult Protective Services, Long Term Care Ombudsman, and legal services can help identify and prevent abuse, and provide assistance in reversing the effects.