As inequality has grown, American seniors have been exposed to financial distress in ways that often go unnoticed
Vivian Majors spent her life cleaning houses while her husband, Martin, worked as a carpenter. Their bodies broke down in their 60s. She is now 71, living on her own and struggling to pay her bills. He is in a nursing home and has Parkinsons disease. She survives on a $960 monthly social security check and $50 in food stamps. Hardened by years of physically taxing work that left her hovering around the poverty line, Majors, now retired, is girding herself for more years of financial hardship.
Elderly poverty was supposed to be a thing of the past. Social security supposedly wiped out the scourge of old-age penury, signaling one of the great social-policy triumphs of the modern era. But this is far from the whole story. Inequality, which has grown markedly in Europe and North America since the 1970s, has widened the gap between the secure and insecure in all age groups, and has exposed American seniors to financial distress in ways that often go unnoticed.
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