SUISUN CITY — Solano County on Tuesday began tackling the challenge of senior poverty by taking a close look at the situation.
About 150 people attended the Senior Poverty Summit at the Joseph A. Nelson Community Center. They heard from speakers and from local seniors.
“Today is the time for senior issues to really be heard and focused on,” Rochelle Sherlock, a county Senior Coalition consultant, told the gathering.
One in five California seniors live in poverty, Sherlock said. In Solano County, 3,500 seniors age 65 or older – 7.1 percent of all seniors – live below the federal poverty level. About 7,500 – 26 percent – have incomes less than $25,000 annually, she said.
For some county seniors, the margin of error for their monthly finances is slim.
“I have to save every penny so I can buy food and maintain my household,” Vallejo senior Nellie Ruiz said during a panel discussion.
The senior poverty rate is rising nationally, said keynote speaker Kevin Prindiville, executive director of the National Senior Citizens Law center.
He listed a number of reasons. Among them: baby boomers have become seniors, a changing economy has resulted in stagnant wages, health care and long-term care costs have risen steeply, and safety net services have been reduced.
“There’s really a perfect storm occurring, one of those bad ones,” Prindiville said.
In 1950, the nation had more than 50 workers for each person on Social Security, Sherlock said. That had shrunk to three workers by 2010 and will shrink to two workers by 2025, she said.
About 46,000 Solano County residents are 65 years old or older, accounting for 11 percent of the county’s population. This is expected to grow to 75,000 residents by 2030, a county report said.
The summit looked at a number of issues. Among them was real estate fraud.
Elderly people can be lonely or have experienced some tragedy, said Laura Undlin of the county District Attorney’s Office real estate fraud unit. Then someone comes and promises something the senior wants, usually some financial result.
“These con men are very good about finding the void that needs to be filled,” she said.
Sonny Ash of the fraud unit talked about an elderly woman who lived in Vallejo, who lost her home. A person tricked her into signing the deed over and then put her in a small outbuilding to live. The county successfully prosecuted the person, but not before the woman died, he said.
Seniors should be suspicious when someone talks about getting them something for nothing, Ash warned.
Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering told those in attendance that it is important that they also attend a planned, second Senior Poverty Summit scheduled Oct. 16. That’s when the hard work to tackle the issues identified Tuesday is to take place.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.