This photo wasn't meant to highlight the fact that homelessness among seniors is on the rise in this country but maybe it should. It is difficult to guess the age of the elder depicted here because living on the streets and in shelters causes premature aging. While we typically define seniors as 65+, in the context of homeless seniors we are talking about those ages 50+.
Awww - but maybe you are more interested in his superhero power. He has the ability to make himself invisible also known as invisibility. Invisibility is a power which renders one unseen to the naked eye and the elder pictured above definitely has it. The only problem is that his power kicks in at times when he would rather be visible. That's where Senior Agenda comes in - we are trying to help him reclaim his ability to be seen. He often warns others who either don't see him at all or are only able to see him for a brief moment before he becomes invisible to steer clear of invisibility. "If you ever get the chance to choose a superhero power, take one of the other ones like the ability to fly, night vision or shift-shaping. Those can't possibly be as damaging as invisibility," he said. He reports that those people who are able to see with their hearts and not just their eyes seem to be able to see him at all times. Until we are able to figure all of this out, let's all practice seeing with our hearts.
Homelessness is an especially brutal proposition for our elders because they experience increased vulnerability and health risks. Can you imagine living on the streets or in a shelter and also suffering from age-related health conditions like incontinence, diabetes, severe arthritis, loss of balance, dementia or Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease, and vision or hearing impairment? Can you imagine needing daily medications that you cannot afford, retain, or house?
According to Dr. Tom Byrne, a research assistant professor in the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, about 28% of all homeless adults were age 50 or older in 2011. That is up from 23% in 2007. The number is expected to continue to rise as the baby boomers age given the difficult economy and the effects of yesteryear's recession on retirements, pensions and savings.
Solutions are multifaceted. To learn more about long-term solutions, visit the Homelessness Resource Center.