Elderly Americans:

Health, Housing, and Nutrition Gaps Between the Poor and Nonpoor

PEMD-92-29: Published: Jun 24, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1992.

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Pursuant to congressional request, GAO provided information on poor and near-poor elderly persons, focusing on: (1) the size and characteristics of the poor and near-poor elderly population; and (2) the relationship between poverty and health care, nutrition, and housing.

GAO found that: (1) the elderly poverty rate declined from 35 percent in 1959 to 12 percent in 1990; (2) certain elderly groups are especially vulnerable to economic problems; (3) in 1990, social security benefits accounted for 71 percent total income for the elderly poor, while income from social security benefits for non-poor elderly was 29 percent of their total income; (4) poor elderly persons are burdened by health care and housing costs and have inadequate nutritional intake; and (5) enrollment in government assistance programs for the elderly poor is low.

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