HOUSTON - Many senior citizens, especially those on fixed incomes, say high inflation is making it harder to put food on the table or pay for prescriptions, and it is forcing them to make tough financial decisions.
With inflation and consumer prices hitting a 40-year-high, and Social Security cost of living adjustments lagging behind, many retirees say they're struggling to make ends meet.
One in four seniors depends on Social Security for 90% of their income, according to the Social Security Administration.
The cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security was 5.9% in January. But that's still behind an inflation rate that has reached 8.6%.
"Since we're on a fixed income, it's tough. It's tough," said retired senior Albie Storenski.
"I don’t go out because I don’t’ want to pay $5 for a gallon of gas," said senior Alicia Preston.
High inflation is driving up food and gas prices, and the general cost of living. It's forcing many seniors to make unexpected decisions in their retirement.
"Buy less meat, make a pot of beans instead," said Mary, Storenski's wife.
"We don’t go out as much as we used to, restaurants are gone," said Albie Storenski.
"It makes me feel a little anxious because I do like to travel, to go out with my friends. But I also know I have to watch my budget," said Preston.
Senior service providers, like the Houston-Galveston Area Agency on Aging, say more seniors are reaching out for help.
"We get a lot of calls where they’re not able to afford necessities. Food is a big concern. And getting to the food sources, with gas being so high," explained Alex Rischan, Lead Benefits Counselor for the Houston-Galveston Area Agency on Aging. "Which leads to social isolation on top of everything," she added.
They're helping seniors find resources they may never have thought they would need, such as SNAP food benefits, transportation, prescription assistance, rent, or mortgage assistance.
"I helped someone save $12,000 a year on prescriptions. They didn’t realize they would qualify for this help," said Rischan.
Some senior community centers, like the Mamie George Community Center, say more seniors are taking advantage of their food pantry, and free daily lunch.
These are resources that are helping to give seniors some relief. Though many retirees still worry about how they'll stretch their retirement savings.
"Daily. What’s it going to be like five years from now, ten years from now? After saving our whole lifetime, is it going to last?" wonders Albie Storenski.
Seniors needing assistance can reach out to the Houston Galveston Area Agency on Aging, or call (713) 627-3200.
You enter your zip code, and the site will show you benefit programs available in your area.
"Some of the benefits that seniors leave on the table every month, and really billions of dollars of benefits that go unclaimed every year, include benefits for things like SNAP, which helps people afford nutritious food. There’s access to housing vouchers, which can help people who are having trouble paying for rent and affording their housing," explained Aisha Williams with the National Council on Aging.
These are some benefits included on the site:
• The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help with food cost
• The Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs, which can help people with Medicare afford their out-of-pocket health care expenses
• The Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing Programs, which can help with housing costs
• Supplemental Security Income, which provides cash for basic needs
• The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet services
• The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which can help you pay for home heating and cooling
Seniors who don't have computer access can call (800) 794-6559.