“Economic Security of Older Women in Maine: Data Report” Released

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The Cutler Institute of Health and Social Policy compiled the “Economic Security of Older Women in Maine: Data Report,” which was released Feb. 28.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is statistically the oldest state in the nation, but retirement prospects are bleak for many people. A new report also indicates that gender plays a role in the economic security of seniors in our state.

On Monday, February 28, the Maine Council on Aging and the Maine Women’s Lobby hosted a webinar to present findings from the Economic Security of Older Women in Maine: Data Report, compiled by the Cutler Institute of Health and Social Policy and made possible by the Maine Health Access Foundation. The key takeaway: Older women in Maine are more likely to live in poverty than older men.

“There are significant income disparities between older women and older men,” said Jess Maurer, executive director of the Maine Council on Aging.

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According to the report, the median income for Maine women 65 and older who live alone is $22,059, compared to $27,008 for older men who live alone. This means that half of these women probably struggle to cover basic expenses.

“They don’t have enough money to pay for heat, property taxes, food, transportation, basic needs, health care,” Maurer said, also noting that older women are more likely to live alone in general, with approximately 50,000 Maine women currently in this position, compared to 24,000 men. This means that it is simply unrealistic to pay for long-term health care out of pocket later in life for older women.

The report also indicates that, compared to men, women are more likely to be outside the labor force; being paid less in the labor force; work part-time without benefits; and providing unpaid work, such as caring for children or aging parents. In total, there are about 7,000 more older Maine women whose incomes are below the federal poverty level than older men — and 85% of Maine’s caregivers are women.

“Retirement security is disproportionately a women’s issue,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins serves on the US Senate Special Committee on Aging.

“[Women] tend to earn less on average than men, and that partly reflects career disruption — but also some of the inequalities in our society,” Collins said, later mentioning, “Women live longer than men, so their retirement savings must last longer.”

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Making money last is often easier said than done. It’s something Linda Dougherty, 72, of Orono understands. She does odd jobs (like tending plants in a greenhouse in Eddington, for example) to make ends meet and have some extra cash on hand. Linda is divorced, which she says has affected her finances.

“Most of the time it’s the women who have the problem because we’ve been in lower level jobs,” Dougherty said, adding, “I mean, if you cook in a restaurant, you don’t get paid. a lot of money. If you’re standing at the checkout in a retail store, that’s all minimum wage.”

Fran Seeley, 80, testified at Monday’s virtual seminar.

“The highest salary I’ve ever earned, even with a master’s degree [degree] and teaching and business degrees, was $22,000 per year,” Seeley said.

Senator Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, also testified. She said another issue is a still-existing pay gap between women and men. According to Vitelli, women once earned 57 cents per male dollar – and now that rate is up to 83 cents per dollar.

“Continued investments and policy changes in critical areas such as employment, housing, and long-term services and supports are needed to ensure that older women have the resources they need to live comfortably in communities. of their choice,” Vitelli said.

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You can read the full report here.

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