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Most women receive benefits not in their own names, but as dependents-either as wives or widows. This leads to the most basic problem inherent in the system. Almost any remedy to the above inequities would create a new inequity. The only equitable solution to the problem seems to be to recognize the non-paid work performed in the home by a married woman, and to allow such women to accumulate credits under the social security system. This would enable all benefits to be paid to individuals on the basis of their work. Precedent exists in the $300 wage credits for each quarter for servicemen who received military pay between 1957 and 1967. Women who provide services at home could also be allowed wage credit similar to non-paid members of religious orders.
At the very least, the law could permit voluntary social security contributions for women employed at home. Such provisions exist in West Germany, Great Britain, etc. In this manner social security benefits could be paid to individuals rather than as dependents of covered earners.
In the case of divorce, present law recognizes that married women perform economically important work, but still confines them to dependency. In addition, the marriage must have lasted twenty years for the woman to be entitled to benefits from her ex-husband's contributions. (Should the woman who was divorced after 19 years be entitled to nothing?) For divorced women to benefit, their former husbands must be receiving social security payments themselves. (Consider the poor woman who is older than her former spouse, or the divorced woman whose ex-husband continues working).
Women should be eligible for income maintenance because they have earned it. not because they are dependent. (Abstracted from testimony by Carolyn Shaw Bell. Joint Economic Committee hearings on economic problems of women. July 2.5, 1973)
More questions about social security-If needed it is “social security", why do lower income persons receive less than wealthier persons? If it is really compulsory insurance, with pay-off at 6.5, then why should persons who continue working he penalized with reduced payments? Why, when industry forces "early retirement", are the benefits reduced for life, leaving so many women in poverty? Why penalize a person for electing social security early and also penalize her/ him for electing it late by working?
Is there no better way to proride for retirement than this regressive tar system?
JOBS AND JOBLESSNESS
When you're a woman, it's hard enough to find a job. If you're over 40 and a woman it gets much tougher. If you're black, a woman and over forty, there's domestic work and not too much else. "... the older the women were, the longer ther had to search for a job ... Since no account is taken of the many who have given up job hunting because it seemed hopeless, unemployment rates of older women especially may be deceptively low ..." (HANDBOOK OF WOMAN WORKERS. U.S. Dept. of Labor).
Legal remedies: Age discrimination in Employment Act of 1967—(administered by Dept. of Labor's Wage and Hour Administration) :
-Bins emplovers with 2.5 or more workers from firing or refusing to hire an individual aged 10 to 0.3 simply because of his or her age ruless age is a BFQ)
-- Forbids employment agencies to refuse to refer a job applicant for a job opening because of her or his age.
----Prohibits any statement of age preference (for example, "boy," "girl," "under 40") by employers or employment agencies in help wanted ads.
--Prohibits favoring younger workers in pay, promotion and fringe benefits.
Note: A law on the hooks means little less it is enforcerl. Very few cases of age discrimination have been processed (1,7:50 cases from effective date through June, 1972)
Can we: Push for vigorous enforcement of the law against age discriminationby filing cases, by pressure unnon the Wage and Hour Administration?
Can we: Urge state agencies (such as California's Fair Employment Practice Commission, wbich is currently investigation age discrimination complaints) to sunnlement federal compliance?
Should be: Insist on affirmative action plans which include age as well as sex and race?
Can we: Call for "pattern anii prartirea investigations which would assume an equitable age ristribution. Esperially in clerical and other occupations where women are most heavily employed?
The Emergency Employment Act (1972) authorizes the Dept. of Labor to help provide jobs in needed public services to unemployed and underemployed persons. The act specifically includes "older persons who desire to remain in, enter, or re-enter the labor work-force.” Example: “Jobs for Older Americans” (pays up to $2.50 per hour for 20 hours per week).
Question : Should we work for extension of such programs beyond the token few they now aid. What other useful services (paid) could be performed by older women, such as meaningful programs for seniors, para professional work in schools, libraries, clinics, hospitals, etc. Write your Congresspersons to fund good programs already passed in principle (Title IX, Older American Act, Amended).
Should unemployment insurance be extended in older age categories beacuse of job scarcity?
Pensions—women are usually excluded both as potential pensioners and as the surviving dependents of employees. In fact, pensions are a bad scene.
"We can't afford to hire older workers because of our pension plan" . . . BUT only 1 out of 10 women retiring from the private work force are receiving private pensions. Because of women's work patterns (commonly off the job market when children are young and for other family responsibilities) few women workers quality for the average plan's requirement of 10 years continuous service.
Women workers who are lucky enough to receive pensions get less than men. Among social security recipients who retired in 1969–70 with private pensions, the median annual private pension for men was $2,080, but only $980 for women. In addition : Only 2% of all widows are receiving benefits from their husband's private pension plan. Under most plans, when the retiree dies, the pension checks stop.
Forced early retirement-An important contemporary trend: Plants close down or relocate. Women in their 50's are not transferred. Or jobs of older women are “phased out.” Or technological advances are made which make their skill ohsolete. (Jobs being replaced by machines are usually "woman's work," like bank tellers). Most have no pensions and are not yet eligible for social security.
As long as retirement brings financial hardship, loss of status and self-esteem, should we challenge compulsory retirement on the basis of chronological age alone?
From volunteer work to paid employment-Most older women now in need have spent a good part of their lives doing for others without pay. Would it not be justice to provide jobs for them now-doing what they do so well? A grateful nation (as it does for its veterans) could make it happen ... if all younger women who provide volunteer service were to step back and insist that their tasks be performed for pay by older women,
Menopause-a well-kept secret: Perhaps because of negative feelings about menses (the "curse", "unwell”, “fall off the roof"') women rarely know much about the menopause. Do women really have "raging hormones", as Dr. Berman alleged, when he explained why he would hate to have women in menopausal years at the helm of state? What percentage of women suffer severe discomfort ? To what extent is "the change" a crisis of role identity, similar to that which men face at retirement? Only in the past few years has solid research been conducted in this area, mostly by women, but we need to know a lot more than we currently do.
Questions: What are the positive and negative effects of estrogen replacement therapy? How do menopausal symptoms differ between work-oriented and homeoriented women? Ilow closely related are menopausal symptoms and negative self-image?
Suggestion: For women approaching or in the course of menopause, menopausal self-help clinics, for education, mutual support and encouragement.
Health insurance: "Your application has been accepted and you now join the over 78 million other Americans who are protected by Blue Cross. The accompanying statement covers the first three months of your membership. (69.90)” Lucky. Most of your hospital and in-hospital medical expenses will be covered. But what of the "high risk” non-employed single women, mostly divorced or widowed, who are not accepted. Ineligible for health insurance, unless 63 or totally disabled, a costly illness means bankruptcy.
Question: If women become obsolescent at menopause, why don't we get a tax deduction like the oil depletion allowance?
Question: How many female gerontologists are there? Now that is a field that could use some women.
MEDICARE: NATIONAL HEALTH CARE FOR THE OLD AND DISABLEDOR
MEDICAL BUSINESS AS USUAL?
"Today, despite Medicare, older Americans are paying out of their meager income the same astronomic sums for health care that they paid in 1966 . out of pocket health costs that are double the costs of younger Americans paying for eye glasses, for foot care and for hearing aids. Today, despite Medicare, older Americans receive less medical care for their dollar than they have ever before."-Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D. Mass.)
The real-life story of the burden of medical care costs on our elderly citizens is far from what it seems on the surface. For the brutal fact is that the amount of money today's average elderly citizen must pay in direct, out-of-pocket costs for medical care actually is more than in fiscal '66, the year before Medicare went into effect. In the most recent fiscal year–1972 which ended last June 20% such costs averaged $104 or $95 more than in 1966.-Sylvia Porter.
Puzzle: What two things do the following expenses have in common?-Outof-hospital prescription drugs, routine physical exams and immunizations, routine eye exams, hearing aids, dentures, routine dental care, orthopedic shoes, custodial nursing home care? They are all "normal" medical care expenses of elderly Americans, and they are among the key items not covered at all by Medicare.
Medicaid and poverty (Eligibility in the "advanced” state of California): Single Woman, Aged 65 (Medically Needy Only (MNO) program: only gets a Medi-Cal card when income has been spent down to $158/month). She would be allowed $1200 in personal property ; $5000 assessed value on real property. Personal property means money in the bank, certain possessions (not furniture or wedding ring, etc.). If monthly income (net) is $178, $60 must be used quarterly for medical expenses before she is eligible for Medi-Cal.
Single Woman, Aged Under 65 Eligibility here would depend on the person's health. If she could qualify for disability (ATD), she would be under the MNO program, and in exactly the same situation as the women aged 65 as far as property allowances. She would also be allowed an income of $158/month.-From testimony, Status of Women Commission, California, Dec. 5, 1972.
The sex gap in longevity: The life expectancy for women is 72—for men is 68. As age increases the number of women to men becomes larger. At 85, there are 180 women to 100 men. The United States has the largest sex gap in longevity of any industrial country. The greater the sex gap in longevity, the more women who are old and alone.
Suicide: Woman's suicide rate peaks at age 55. Nationally, three times as many women as men attempt suicide but three times as many men as women complete the act. “Mental distress occurs in non-carreer women, tied up at home with no outlet. The housewife syndrome contributes to poor emotional and mental health."--Dr. Judith G. Pool, Stanford U. School of Medicine.
Diet: "A pension check can buy more doughnuts than vegetables. Easier too, it you live alone. As for meat-forget it!” “My doctor prescribed lean red meat. He said it was very important for my condition. I couldn't tell him that's impossible on $72.50, which is what I get on Social Security.” “The cost of food? I'd late to do without my milk and crackers. That's one of my pleasures, and I don't have too many".--From interviews at a senior center.
Too much-as bad as too little? The National Council of Senior Citizens accused the drug industry and doctors of promoting the use of tranquilizers in nursing homes for the sole purpose of quieting elderly patients. An ad by Roche Laboratories lauded Valium as helping to produce “a less demanding and complaining patient." "They (doctors) love kidney disease, or if you have a heart condition they hover around you. You're an interesting specimen. But the less spectacular illnesses, forget it.” Does radiation speed up the aging process?
There is a current trend in urban communities: young white and wealthier older families more to suburbs, leaving behind minorities and aging white poor. The result is increasing friction between those left behind with all the problems and few resources. “We're sitting ducks for muggers," say older women of all races. One step to help: Safety committees to escort seniors on welfare days, as worked out by Black Panther and senior groups in Oakland, Ca. Additional possibilities: defence committees, neighborhood alerts.
As the tax base decreases, the property taxes for education hit these elderly homeowners hardest. Solutions : Other tax money for schools. Deductions of assessed valuation for lower-income homeowners (some states have this already).
A group of "Golden Owls" in Berkeley developed a mutual help arrangement. They fix up places for rental so that those who need it, have some income. Sug. gestion : Federal low cost loans and expert assistance for cooperatives of older women to earn some livelihood through rental property.
Those brutal-concrete towers built for the aging may seem like tomorrowland to their architects, but to those who are supposed to move there, they are stark and sterile and strange, bringing the loneliness of old age into painful focus. “Silos for storing old people" (Guy Wright). A simple demand: All future construction for seniors should have an advisory committee of old women and men, with authority to veto the insensitivities of the specialists.
"And the old people tell me they pray every night not to wake up in the morning. That's the way it is in many of these nursing homes." (Legislative hearings, Ca.) Read : Old Age: the Last Segregation by Claire Townsend, a Ralph Vader Study Group Report on Nursing Homes.
Communes for the elderly? Small group living may be one alternative. But need the residents all be old? Veeded: Experimentation with new models of housing for people of all ages, such as a proposed residence in Philadelphia to be governed on a cooperative basis by the residents, and related to community groups. (Grer Panthers).
Are Sun ('ities all that great? These retirement communities for more affluent citizens have both supporters and detractors. The conveniences are fine and the worries gone, but too much cake can make one nauseous. Main complaints: boredom, lack of stimulation, having made the investment, difficulty in moving if it doesn't work out. Research study: Interviews of retirees. Evaluation, so people would know what they are getting into. Also, development of agreements for residents of retirement homes giving residents a voice in program and policy decisions. (Grey Panthers platform).
Divorce: The trend is toward more divorces, and for an increasing percentage in later years. It is called the turenty-year slump. One quarter of those who file have been married 15 years or more. As laws are “liberalized" and divorces easier to obtain, the financial safeguards for the woman who has been at home hare been further eroded. Permanent alimony is under attack throughout the country. The wife who has been dependent for 20 or more years may lose her livelihood), her capital, her credit rating, her medical insurance, her husband's life insurance, and if married only 19 years, her social security. If her children are still in their teens and her ex-husband is irresponsible and moves to another state, she may become the sole support of her children. Vo wonder so many older komen tolerate insufferable partners! They may not have a martyr complex at allthey just have no other choice but welfare. We neeil: Documentation of the impact of current legal rulings on older women. As a starter, write for: Report of NOW-W.Y. Varriage & Divorce Com. (Betty Berry), and other materials from the VOW Task Force on Marriage.
Widowhood : There are 9.6 million widows in the l'.S. They outnumber widowers 4 to 1, and their opportunities for remarriage are much less. (Also true for divorced women.) If there is property, widows are in a somewhat better position economically. BI'T after a lifetime of economic dependence, ther mas not be prepared for decision making, and often become victims of anfidence men. Even members of the family may take advantage of them. We need : Women's mutual support groups. to help older women alone to become independent anal self-reliant, pspecially in financial matters. We need courses tailored to older women who have always assumed a man would look out for them.
old lovers: A new phenomenon: for economic reasons, older couples are living together without marriage. When income is bare subsistence, even a small cut in social securitr benefits mar keep people from marrying. THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE TO MAKE THAT (HOICE. But sexual neerls continue into old age, and congratulations to those who have found a solution.
AGEISM, OR AS OTHERS SEE US Ageism is ...
- a young classics instructor at Brandeis, Douglas Stewart, who believes old people should be denied the vote because, “having no future, they are dangerously far from the consequences of their own political acts, and it makes no sense to allow the vote to someone who is actuarially unlikely to survive and pay the bills. ..."
a sociologist who explains to his students that older people experience "disengagement" as a natural stage in life as preparation for death. (Here is the old patiern. Those who are running things forcibly "disengage" us--from jobs, from decisions about our lives--then sociologists explain it as inherent in those suffering the oppression).
the constant message on TV and in magazines that youth is good and age is bad. By twenty, women have gotten the message and are buying the products to keep them young. (If we had all the money we spend to keep young when We grow old, we wouldn't be in such bad shape).
Ageism is witches, hags and wicked step-mothers--or picturing all older women as whistler's mother in a rocking chair.
Ageism is ..
- treating older people as though they were guilty of the crime of uselessness. Yet Social Security, which like all savings is considered “deferred gratification”, puts million into the economy. What's the difference from that or receiving money from interest and dividends?
- being considered over the hill when you have about half of your life expectancy still to go.
being told you suffer “loss of ego energy” as you grow older, when that ego is in large part a reflection of how others see us.
Grey Panthers : “We are trying on the future for size." "Older persons in this society constitute a great national resource, which has largely gone unrecognized, undervalued and unused . . Creative and innovative ways must be found to enable older people to make their contribution to a new age of liberation ... We focus on action.” Convenor, Maggie Kuhn, who co-chaired the Older Women's Workshop at NOW Ntl. Conference. (Write: c/o Tabernacle Church, 3700 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19104)
Prime time: "For the liberation of women in the prime of life ...” Excellent monthly from New York. Includes insightful articles, criticism and news of the women's movement as it affects older women. Edited by Marjory Collins, who cochaired the Workshop with Maggie Kuhn. (For copy, write 232 East 6th St., Apt. 5C, New York, N.Y. 10003)
Speakers bureaus—Present and future: In New York, PRIME TIME Speakers Roster. Coordinator : Esther Labovitz, 945 West End Ave., N.Y.C. 10025. Any others? Consider developing one on interests and problems of older women. An excellent means of raising consciousness and gaining confidence oneself.
Women's bureaus and commissions : Urge them to participate in digging up the facts we need. With such urging they will become responsive to the special concerns of older women.
Media : Older people are "in" this season. Make the most of it by getting each other on talk shows and in feature stories. Also, magazines may be receptive to well researched and insightful stories.
Traditional organizations: Older women are already organized-in church groups, senior centers, established women's groups and in the volunteer world. Women who were hostile to "lib" may be receptive to social security reform or mutual self-help projects. (Don't let differences in style deter you.)
Allies: Seniors are organizing for legislative clout and community power. Some will be ready to work on specific issues. Most senior power groups cross racial lines, so minority contacts can be developed at the same time.
JOBS FOR OLDER WOMEX ACTION PROJECT The meeting inside is a Two-Day Briefing on Compliance with Government Legislation on Equal Employment Opportunity, held hy Executive Enterprises. Inc. of New York. The reason this press conference has been held to coincide with