Aging and Economic Vulnerability: Causes, Consequences, and Potential Interventions
The goal of this symposium is to provide an overview of some recent social work research on older adults living in or near poverty. The first two papers focus on the causes of economic vulnerability. The first paper uses a nationally-representative longitudinal data set to examine the impact of chronic health conditions on older adults’ economic security, highlighting how efforts to improve health at younger ages can reduce economic vulnerability later in life. The second paper uses qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews and field observations, to explore perceived pathways to elder homelessness. This paper calls attention to how the accumulation of risk factors over the life course, including barriers to employment, housing, and health care, contributes to elders’ economic vulnerability. The last two papers focus on outcomes associated with economic vulnerability. The third paper investigates how neighborhood influences on health and well-being may differ between those who are economic vulnerable and those who are economically secure. Combining needs assessment data with geographic location data, this paper will include a discussion of implications for interventions designed to create more “age-friendly” neighborhoods. The final paper examines the role of economic security, living alone, and case management services among a sample of homebound elders served by four agencies in New York City, focusing particularly on whether these services reduce the impact of economic vulnerability on functional impairment.
The four papers utilize a variety of methodological approaches to understanding economic vulnerability among older adults and identify the need for interventions at various time points across the life course. Implications for research, policy and practice (both focused specifically on older adults and those at earlier stages of the life course) will be discussed.