Opioids threaten seniors' retirement savings, health

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks at the March 21 Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks at the March 21 Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing.

The opioid epidemic, which finds an increasing number of older Americans raising their grandchildren, could increase older adults' need for seniors housing and care while decreasing their ability to pay for it, suggested speakers at a March 21 Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing.

The trend requires older adults to tap into their retirement savings and isolates them from their friends while they tend to their full-time caregiving duties, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), chairwoman of the committee.

“In the United States, every 25 minutes, a baby is born with an opioid addiction,” she said. “In this crisis, as in past crises, grandparents are coming to the rescue.”

Older adults' heroic efforts are taking a toll on their mental and physical health, however, manifested as increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and depression, Collins said.

Hearing witness Jaia Peterson Lent, deputy executive director of Generations United, said that older adults' savings and health may be helped by the continuation of social services block grants that fund a range of community-based supportive services; the preservation of Medicaid access for child and adult healthcare; advocacy encouraging states to maximize their use of the National Family Caregiver Support Program (currently, up to 10% of state NFCSP dollars can be used serve “grandfamilies” in which the caregiver is aged 55 or more years); and lobbying for the coordination of services and supports among temporary assistance for needy families, child welfare and aging services agencies, among other measures.

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