They are our neighbors, friends, fellow church congregants, service workers and in some cases, our family members. We might find them working at the pharmacy, serving our meals, caring for children, joining in at neighborhood gatherings, or living nearby.
When we see them, we likely do not see their secret burden. They might be one of the 7% of Delawareans living in poverty – one of 67,800 seniors living below the poverty line who have served their country, state and families for their whole lives, but who now need a helping hand from us.
When we count seniors living below the poverty line, the statistics belie the extent of the problem: seniors who are unable to meet their needs. A 2020 study found that 38% of Delawareans qualify as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (“ALICE”). These are people who often live paycheck-to-paycheck and are one emergency away from crisis. They live above the Federal Poverty Level and are therefore ineligible for many federal programs, but they don’t have enough income to meet their basic needs.
The report suggests that a senior living alone needs $31,428 per year to survive. Based on that, the study concluded that 41% of Delaware seniors fall into the ALICE category. Delaware’s average social security check is $1654 per month or $19,848 per year – a shortage of $11,500 from the Alice survival budget for Delaware. The remainder of the money conceivably would come from savings, but you can imagine how much someone who held lower-income jobs would have been able to save during their active working years.
The nonprofit community has always provided important services and sources of help to our elders, and we salute them for their consistent and dedicated service. We have long worked with valued partners such as Cheer, Modern Maturity Senior Center, Newark Senior Center, MOT Senior Center and Wilmington Senior Center who are dedicated to serving seniors in their communities.
Now, to help bring attention to seniors in poverty, we are partnering with ChristianaCare, Delaware 211, Always Best Care and A Helping Hand to lighten the burden for seniors. Throughout April, we are all seeking donations of personal care products and small household maintenance items, as well as monetary donations.
Items such as light bulbs, adult diapers, trash bags, disinfectant wipes, and more can be donated in person at these participating senior centers: Absalom Jones Senior Center, Oak Grove Senior Center, MOT Senior Center, New Castle Senior Center
and Wilmington Senior Center.
In addition, we aim to raise a minimum of $1500 in April (or lots more). For more information and to make online donations, visit https://uwde.org/events/senior-care-day-2023.
A donation to this drive, no matter how small, will offer welcome relief to an older person who is stretching every dollar every day. And, while you have the needs of seniors in mind, think about whether there is a way you assist further.
Employers: help your employees actively secure their financial future by learning about retirement. Refer them to StandBy Me 50+, a program of United Way of Delaware and the State of Delaware that provides persons ages 50 and older with free, individualized financial coaching.
Conduct a donation drive at your places of work, and reach out to retirees so they know they’re not alone.
Leaders of faith-based organizations, libraries, civic associations, clubs, sororities, fraternal organizations: work with Stand By Me or a community-based organization to plan a program for your community’s seniors.
Contact your state elected officials and encourage them to work to increase the states sadly lacking supply of affordable housing for our seniors as well as our ALICE household neighbors.
Seniors want to be able to afford to stay in their own homes and live independently as long as they can. By helping in small ways and large, we can help make that happen.
Michelle A. Taylor, Ed.D.
President and CEO, United Way of Delaware