As the over-60 population in Houston–Harris County continues to grow, financial factors are becoming of greater concern. For many, the portion of seniors’ income not spent on medication is stressed by expenditures for utilities, housing, and food. As the United Way of Greater Houston’s 2-1-1 HELPLINE caller records attest, requests are on the rise for information about food issues (7.44%), utility assistance (12.09%), and housing issues (4.84%). Although the percentages may seem small, they represent more than 7,000 callers, or an estimated 25% of callers out of the approximately 28,000 persons who call for assistance each year.
Other statistics support the reality of those concerns. For example, the estimated average wait time for homebound meal assistance in Harris County is six and one-half months. There are currently no firm provisions for those in greatest need to receive therapeutic meals, weekend meals, or holiday meals.
Deregulation of electrical power has increased the financial burden on residents paying their utility bills. There is a definite lack of sufficient emergency assistance utility programs. For many, utility charges have risen more than 100% during the past two years.
Meeting clothing needs is hampered by four primary issues: cost, lack of education regarding resources, lack of transportation to travel to distribution points, and insufficient availability of proper sizes, especially for larger persons.
Because of financial restrictions, many seniors frequently miss doctors’ appointments, stretch medications, do not use air conditioning or heating in severe weather, and fail to purchase nutritious food. Each of these factors can lead to increased health issues. Additionally, many seniors do not seek assistance or register complaints about current services out of fear of reprisal.
For more information contact:
Janice Paul, PhD
Houston Department of Health and Human Services
© 2009 HCAAA