NYS Elder Economic Security Index: Real Cost of Living

How much income do seniors need to meet the real costs of living?

How much do public support programs – food, prescription, medical, utility and housing assistance – help elders meet their rising expenses? To answer these questions, service providers, advocates and policymakers need an accurate measure of elders’ economic security. In response, the Initiative has created a new benchmark – the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index).

The Elder Index measures the minimum income older adults need to make ends meet and remain in their own homes. The Elder Index helps workers and retirees plan for the future. It also quantifies the effectiveness of state and national public policy and programs in preserving economic security for older adults.

The Elder Index helps pre-retirees, elders, advocates, policy makers, philanthropists and direct service providers:

  • Quantify Elder Economic Security;
  • Examine the components of economically secure elders’ basic expenses;
  • Measure the gaps between typical incomes and economic security;
  • Measure how well public policies can help fill those gaps; and
  • Evaluate current income support programs’ ability to move individuals toward economic security.

What does it take to age in place with dignity?

To arrive at a measure of income adequacy, the Elder Index adds up the five major monthly expenses which constitute the basic elder household budget. As a measure of basic needs, the Elder Index includes only those goods and services essential to health and welfare:

Monthly Expenses

  • Housing: Rent or mortgage payments and all housing-related costs (heat, utilities, insurance, property taxes), as applicable
  • Food: Costs of food prepared at home, based on the USDA Low-Cost Food Plan for older adults1
  • Health Care: Premiums for Medicare, supplemental insurance and average outof-pocket costs, including co-payments and deductibles
  • Transportation: Costs of private auto ownership and use, or public transportation where widely available
  • Miscellaneous: Essential household and personal items such as clothing, paper products, cleaning products, etc. Miscellaneous expense for all housing statuses is estimated at 20% of all other expenses of a homeowner without a mortgage, based on Department of Labor Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

Learn more about this initiative by clicking the links below:

Economic Security Index by County (.pdf)
New York Elder Economic Security Initiative
Real Cost of Living
Making Ends Meet
Bridging the Gaps
Elder Index Resources