« PreviousContinue »
The problems listed below are aspects of this overall situation. What is immediately needed are some handles to provide protection for older women as sex roles change, while we work on longer range solutions for aging women. Feminists within government agencies, women activists, legal advocates, researchers, working together, can develop the strategies. These could include administrative advocacy, introduction of legislation and public education and litigation.
The need is overwhelming, and the potential for positive change is better than in many years. Our efforts can bridge the woman's movement and energing senior activism.
Problem: Poor aged women. Most of the aged poor are female, society's paroff for woman's role,
Example: A widow, aged 81, of a man of modest income, receives $120 per month social security and has no other resources. Although she is eligible for SSI benefits, she receives none. Discouraged on her first attempt by the nature of the applictaion, the shame she felt about it, and her dependency training, she exists on the edge of starvation, completely isolated, awaiting death.
Questions. How can we increase minimum social security payments, since so many women receive the minimum? How can full utilization of current SSI be ensured? Can we eliminate means tests designed to discourage applications for support to which persons are legally entitled? How will other income maintenance proposals affect old women specifically? (The fundamental point to keep in mind is that most old women are dreadfully poor and that needs to be changed. Any proposed reforms should answer the question, “To what extent will this improve the economic position of older women—who and how many ?")
Problem: Non-coverage by social security ... pitfalls of dependency.
Examples : A 73-year-old woman whose husband of 40 years died several years ago was informed that she will no longer receive her widow's benefits. Her husband was previously married in Europe and he had never divorced ... Another woman was divorced in her fifties after 29 years of marriage. On applying for social security when she reached 62, she was informed that she is not eligible for anything until her ex-husband, the wage-earner, retires. She is eight years older than he, so will receive benefits when she is 73, if he retires at 65 .. A woman of 60 has had two husbands. The first marriage was resolved after 17 years; the second lasted 16 years, until her husband left her for a younger woman. In both cases she worked at home. occasionally doing part-time work, but has not collected enough quarters to be eligible for any social security.
Question. What is the best way to divide social security credits between spouses without inequity to single persons ? More broadly, how can women more from dependency to self-sufficiency with the fewest casualties?
Problem: Work that is not paid is not considered work. Homemakers are ercluded from labor legislation.
Example: A woman of 54 who has been a dependent homemaker for 31 years is divorced. There is little community property except a home with a mortgage. The judge is attuned to the new equality of women and awards her 2 years minimal spousal support for “retraining." She is bewildered by her new status. her self-esteem has taken a nose-dive, and she spends the two years back in college as she tries to figure out who she is. Now the support has stopped and she tries to get a job. Uncertain of herself, untrained, ineligible for government training programs or unemployment insurance, she finds that a 56 year-old woman who has been out of the job market can do baby-sitting or work in a nursing home, neither of which pay a living.
Questions. Are there any income maintenance programs that could be extended to include homemaking as work? The largest body of workers still uncovered by social security and unemployment benefits are homemakers. What handles can be used to bring about official recognition of this fact? How can the anti-discrimination machinery be forced to deal with the combined impact of age and sex discrimination?
Problem: Middle years vulnerability of homemakers through "forced retirement.” The black-out period.
Example: A widowed homemaker of 50 has had her moderate resources wired out by medical costs of her husband's terminal illness. She is desperate and distraught, but finds she is only eligible for modest burial funds from the veterans administration. She has no young children, so is ineligible for AFDC. She cannot
get SSI funds because she is not blind nor disabled, yet is unable to work even if she could find a job. Her only hope is general assistance (California average $87 per month). Unfortunately she is neither an alcoholic or drug addict, in which case she would be eligible for rehabilitation.
Questions. Could a government program be introduced to provide training stipends and supportive services, as well as SSI and Medicare coverage, ... a Dixplaced Homemakers Bill? Could unemployment insurance be extended for these most vulnerable of persons out of their jobs? (Similar to recently passed emergency legislation to cover domestic and farm workers who had not paid into the system).
SUMMARY First, since old women are at the bottom of the heap, major attention should be placed on raising the system from the bottom. Second, older women are not expendable in the march toward equality. Third, each person needs security in her/his own right. Fourth, special programs are needed to replace dependency "protections” for displaced homemakers. Fifth, social security, income maintenance, health and welfare services, job opportunity and retraining are all interrelated issues, and must be tackled in a coordinated way. And last, we older women muist organize in our own behalf. We can, and must, speak for ourselves.
POLICY RESOLUTION ADOPTED AT NOW NATIONAL CONVENTIOX, MAY 27, 1974 We affirm the positive values that maturity brings, the relevance of our life experience, and we are determined to combat ageism in its many manifestations.
We support more equitable social security for women. While we work for immediate increases and against inequities, we advocate more basic changes, such as recognition of the financial value of non-paid work in the home and community by allowing women to accumulate credits under the social security system in their own names (women should be eligible for income maintenance because they have earned it, not because they are dependents).
We work for pension law reforms: such as early vesting, protection of survivors, pro-rata coverage for part-time work, etc.
We urge women of all ages to plan ahead to accept responsibility for their own lives, so that they can look forward to a future less bleak than that of most older women today ... and we will work for realistic counseling, education and training to provide essential safeguards as women more from dependency to liberation.
We demand the right to earn a livelihood and to be economically independent. We will combat age discrimination in employment by working for enforcement of existing legislation (such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967) while working to include proscriptions against age discrimination in other legislation designed to provide equal opportunity for all persons.
We demand government funded programs providing decent jobs for older women to replace women nou exploited as volunteers
We recognize and encourage as many choices for older women as for any others: in housing, in life style, in sex, in education, in recreation. We value the contribution of the woman who elects homemaking as a career (if that is her choice) just as we value those who choose other occupations. We will work to raise the status of homemaking (it's rating as an occupation; assignment of monetary value in the GNP; tangible rewards such as tax benefits).
We recognize that many older women have invested years of (non-paid) labor in marriage, with expectation of social and economic security in their futures. We will work to protect their interests as divorce laws and customs chance, so that they not become victims of unwelcomed “liberatiaon."
We will work for a more humane health delivery System that will value a person's well-being at any age. Specifically we seek alternatives to profit-run nursing homes, and meanwhile will work for more stringent regulations of current ones. We seek financially supported research by feminists on menopause, preventive medicine and creative aging.
We demand a voice in all the institutions that “serve” us, and treatment as full human beings without condescension.
We strongly urge local chapters to organize local task forces to raise the consciousness hoti inside and outside of NOW to the problems of ageism and the older women, as well as to implement programs based on the above.
DISPLACED HOMEMAKERS BILL
TITLE 1--STATEMENT OF FINDINGS AND OBJECTIVES Section 1. There is an ever increasing number of women in this country who have fulfilled a role, encouraged by our society, as homemaker, and who find themselves in their middle years, "displaced" from that role and from any source of economic security, through widowhood, divorce, or the loss of family income.
Section 2. Displaced homemakers, between the ages of 35–65, are often without any source of income; they are ineligible for categorical welfare assistance, as their children are grown, and they are not physically disabled ; they are ineligible for social security because they are too young and because for many, they are separated from the family wage-earner through divorce; they are ineligible for Medicare and are generally unacceptable to private health insurance plans: they are subject to the highest unemployment rate of any sector of the work force, and are ineligible for unemployment insurance because they have been engaged in unpaid labor in the home, in the service of their families and society; they are discriminated against in seeking employment because they are women, older, and because they have no recent paid work experience.
Section 3. Homemakers are an unrewarded, unrecognized and unpaid part of the workforce, who make an invaluable contribution to the welfare and economic stability of the society as a whole, but who receive no health, retirement or unemployment benefits as a result of their labor.
Section 4. It is the purpose of this act to provide for the necessary training, jobs, and services and health care for displaced homemakers so that they may enjoy the independence and economic security vital to a productive life: and so that the health, education, and welfare of this growing number of citizens might be improved, thus improving the economic and social conditions of the society as a whole.
TITLE 2-JOB TRAINING AND RETRAINING PROGRAM
Section 1. In order to promote the re-entry of displaced homemakers into the work force, the Secretary is authorized to establish job training programs which will provide displaced homemakers with the necessary skills to become gainfully employed. These training programs will be geared to the skills and experiences of a homemaker and will make use of past work experience of the homemaker.
Section 2. The job training programs will include motivational factors, and will operate on a community level, in coordination with the various service programs provided for by TITLE 3 of this ACT.
Section 3. The job training programs will provide a stipend for the trainee for the length of the training program.
Section 4. It will also be the purpose of the job training program to assist the trainee in finding employment at the termination of the training program, To this end, the Secretary is authorized to enter into agreements with social service agencies, public and private, which will provide employment for the trainees in the service field.
Section 5. The Secretary is also authorized to initiate programs of education and research to encourage private employers to employ trainees and to publicize and assist trainees in securing enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act through the Department of Labor.
TITLE 3-MULTIPURPOSE SERVICE PROGRAMS
Section 1. The Secretary is authorized to establish multipurpose service programs to meet the needs of displaced homemakers, and to utilize the skills, training and experience of displaced homemakers. These programs will be based on a self-help concept where displaced homemakers will be employed in com munity service activities, serving all unemployed, poor and disadvantaged citizens, including displaced homemakers.
Section 2. In order to carry out the provisions of this title, the Secretary is authorized to enter into agreements with public or private nonprofit service agencies and community organizations, and agencies of political subdivisions of a State to provide for the payment of costs of programs developed to further The purposes of this Title. All such programs shall :
a. provide necessary employment for individuals from among the category of displaced homemakers, to the fullest extent possible, with displaced homeinakers filling supervisory, technical, and administrative positions as well as other staff positions.
b. contribute to the general welfare of the community as well as the welfare of the displaced homemakers.
Section 3. Programs specifically designed to meet the social and educational needs of displaced homemakers shall be given priority in funding. For example, such programs would include:
a. Well Woman Health Clinics, based on the self-help principle of medicine, and the concept of preventative aging.
b. Educational programs providing for Graduate Equivalency Training, Certification in Teaching, Nursing and other professions.
c. General educational programs designed to encourage broader knowledge and participation in community affairs for displaced homemakers.
d. Menopausal clinics and education groups.
e. Alcoholic and drug programs aimed specifically at displaced homemakers and other middle years homemakers who experience social dislocation.
Section 4. Other social service programs shall be eligible for funding under this Title, when such funding shall be used for employment of displaced homemakers. Such programs shall include, but not be limited to:
a. homemaker services to the elderly and for other disadvantaged citizens; b. child care programs; c. senior citizen programs; d. nutritional programs; e. juvenile programs, such as halfway houses.
TITLE 4-EXTENSION OF MEDICARE BENEFITS AND SSI
Section 1. The eligibility age for MEDICARE benefits and SSI shall be reduced to 50 for otherwise eligible displaced homemakers, regardless of disability.
Section 1. The Secretary shall consult and cooperate with the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Administration on Aging, the Social Service Administration, the Department of Labor and any other related Federal agency administering related programs, with a view to achieving optimal coordination with such other programs and shall promote the coordination of projects under this ACT with other public and private programs of a similar nature.
Section 1. For purposes of this ACT:
a. "displaced homemaker” means an individual, over 35, who has been dependent on the income of a spouse, but who is no longer supported by that income; or who has been dependent on federal assistance as a mother of dependent children, but who is no longer eligible for such assistance; who has worked in the home, providing unpaid household services for a spouse and/or children who is not gainfully employed; who has had or would have difficulty in securing employment.
b. “The Secretary" is the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, or any person to whom (s) he delegates the authority vested by this ACT.
THE PROBLEM AND THE POTENTIAL
Sexism is compounded as a woman grows older. Jobs are harder to come by; the dependency status increases; self-image deteriorates; health care goes from bad to worse; a great number of marriages founder or are ended by widowhood; and for a large majority of older women, poverty is no longer on the door stepit moves in. Our society is not only permeated with sexism and racism, but is also pervaded with ageism. This form of depreciation and denial of personhood affects both genders, but women, already affected by sexism, are especially vulnerable,
l'nless, as older women, we tackle our special problems, the very upheavals which are bringing about gains for younger women will worsen the conditions for those whose roles were defined in an earlier day, and will thereby alienate the young from the old. On the other hand, an assault upon the disastrous conditions of most older women can build a bridge between mothers and daughters, between NOW and established women's organizations, and between the woman's movement and senior power. Besides, every woman has a personal stake in a future of security and dignity. The right she saves today, tomorrow will be her
This pamphlet is a sampler of facts, opinions, questions and proposals-an attempt to define the problems of "growing older female.” These problems seem orerwhelming. The United States does very poorly by its older citizens, and women join those ranks at a comparatively young age. Our double standard of aging has not diminished as much as our double standard of sex. But a tremendous potential for change lies within older women themselves. Once our own self-concept becomes strong and positive and we move into action, we will confront a geism with the same vigor that we attack sexism. Which in turn will give us extraordinary new energy.
There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning... devotion to individuals, to groups or to causes, social, political, intellectual or creative work ... (with) passions strong enough to prevent us turning in upon ourselves. (Simon de Beauvoir, in The Coming of Age)
ECONOMICS OF GROWING OLDER
Facts—There are more of us: In the next two decades, old people will make up 11% of the population. For those orer 65, there are 1,000 women for 724 men. There are twice as many women living alone as men (about 8 million!). The life expectancy of women is now 7+ years.
We are getting poorer: The over-65 generation is the only classification in which poverty is increasing erery year. Among women heads of households, the largest increase (75%) was for women 65 and over who were primary individuals and living alone. One out of 4 persons orer 6.5 falls below the federal poverty level (for women, even higher). In 1969. the median income for single older people was $1855 (less for women). $.5 million people 45 and over are living in poverty.
The older we get, the more money we need and the less we get: Seventy-one percent of women over 65 hare incomes of less than $2,000 a year, as against 40.3% of women in the 55–64 age group and 31.1% for women 45–54. Only 8% orer 65 recerie $5,000 a year. (from PRIME TIME)
Women in the middle (22% of the Female Population) ... Prime Time. There are 21.8 million American women between ages 45 and 64. Almost 19 million of them live in families, 2 million of which are headed by females. Another .1.1 million are single women--separated, divorced, widowed, or never married-who live alone or with unrelated persons.
Of single women 45 to 54. 72% are prorking outside the home, but the percent. age drops to 63% between ages 5 and 61. For married women the percentages are 45 and 4 for the respective age groups.
Increasing numbers live without men. Although 81% of women 47-54 are married, only 66.5% of women 55-64 are still living with hushands,
Fourteen percent of aged women, compared to one percent of aged men, have no income. (Where are the sisters of the skid ror men hiding?) Among persons age 6.7 or over who hare income, the median annual income of men is abut $3,750, while that of women is $1,900. (Vartha Griffiths, Congresswoman)
WOMEN AND SOCIAL SECURITY
Women who are full-time earners receive about 58% of their male counterparts, reflecting discrimination in occupations. Since women typically earn low wages, they also receiro low benefits as retirees or disabled rorkers.
Verr few women earn more than the social serurity base income, althongh their contribution to the system represents a larger share of what they earn than men. As of December 1971 the average monthlr henefits naid to women (without re. duetinn for earlv retirement amounted to $126.24 compared to $1.36.39 for men.
When husband and wife hoth work (as a maiorito do), ther not more for the henefits rereired. The married working woman contributes a heavier tax rate than married men or single women.