PCA report: Older adult poverty rampant in Philadelphia

Senior poverty is rampant in Philadelphia. The city has the highest percentage of seniors in poverty of the nation’s 10 largest cities.*

As of 2017, of Philadelphians 60-plus (including those in facility-based care)*:

  • 10% are in deep poverty, with incomes of less than 50% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or $6,030 for a single person.
  • 23% have incomes less than 100% of the FPL, or $12,060 for a single person.
  • 46% have incomes less than 200% percent of the FPL, or $24,120 for a single person. Individuals between 100% and 200% of the FPL are often termed “near-poor” because they still find it hard to afford to meet many basic needs. According to Allen Glicksman, Ph.D., director of research and evaluation at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), “A large part of the problem is that many people in this category are poor, but because of the use of the federal poverty standards to establish eligibility for programs, they need services for which they cannot financially qualify.”

In 2017, the proportion of older adults in deep poverty was one and a half times higher than in 2013.

Poverty impacts seniors’ quality of life.
“Every aspect of life is affected by poverty, from health to living environment to access to goods and services,” according to PCA’s Glicksman.

Among Philadelphia’s 291,000 seniors, more than 134,000 have incomes below 200% of the FPL. They face hardship in many ways**:

107,000 (including both homeowners and renters) reported that it is difficult to afford housing.

  • 77,000 live in homes that need major repairs that they cannot afford.
  • 32,000 have skipped a meal due to lack of money.
  • 29,000 cannot afford to fill a prescription.

Poverty can be harmful to seniors’ health.
According to PCA’s Glicksman, “Poverty impacts all the health problems faced by older adults.”

  • 47% percent of older Philadelphians with incomes less than 100 percent of the FPL rated their health as fair or poor compared to 26% of those with higher incomes.
  • Poverty is associated with higher rates of chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and obesity, and with a higher rate of mental health diagnoses.**

Elders who are members of racial or ethnic minorities have higher rates of poverty.

The senior poverty rate for whites is 17%; for African-Americans, 25%; for Asians, 37%; and for Hispanics 42%.*

Factors impacting senior poverty

  • Older Philadelphians are less likely to be employed and more likely to have a disability than older persons in the nation’s other 9 largest cities, according to PCA’s Glicksman
  • Social Security can’t help anyone who was never part of the system as a worker. Fifty-percent of Philadelphia seniors with incomes less than 100% of the FPL (38,500 seniors) do not receive Social Security.* Many older Philadelphians, especially women, worked at low-paying jobs all their lives without paying into the Social Security system, according to PCA’s Glicksman.

* 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey
** 2015 Philadelphia Health Management Corporation Household Health Survey

*** 2017: The PEW Charitable Trusts report “Philadelphia’s Poor”