More than 300,000 elderly Californians are officially poor, as measured by the federal government, but their numbers triple to more than 1 million when the “hidden poor” are counted, according to a new study from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.
"Many of our older adults are forced to choose between eating, taking their medications or paying rent," said D. ImeldaPadilla-Frausto, a UCLA graduate student researcher at the center and lead author of the study. "The state might be emerging from a recession, but for many of our elder households, the downturn seems permanent."
National poverty guidelines say that for a single elderly adult living alone, the poverty line is $10,890 a year, but UCLA’s “elder index” puts it at $23,364 in California. The calculations of the hidden poor, unlike the official poverty rate, take into account the cost of living, particularly housing. And that means San Francisco, whose residents have relatively high incomes but extraordinarily high housing costs, has one of the state’s higher rates of elder poverty.
Nearly 1 in 5 adults over 65 in California—more than three-quarters of a million people—live in an economic no-man's land, unable to afford basic needs but often ineligible for government assistance.
The study said population groups with especially large proportions of the hidden poor include grandparents raising grandchildren, elderly with adult children living at home, and single elders. Those “hidden poor” Californians over 65 tend to be Latino or black. Their greatest concentrations are found in rural counties with overall low income levels, topped by Imperial County, where more than 40 percent of the elderly are the hidden poor.