As we continue to focus on helping these children, we seem to forget about the grandparents in their lives. These grandparents suffer the same fate the children do; they do not have access to dental or vision care, nor can they afford the services. Like most grandparents, they put the needs of their children and grandchildren first, resulting in neglect to their own health which can place their life in peril. We are reaching out to these grandparents and other low-income seniors to make sure they are taking care of themselves so they can be there to provide for their family. The goal of the Senior Resource Program’s (SRP) system of care is for patients to be seen and treated by oral health or vision care donors in the city they reside in, as well as by the same provider in order to build a system of trust. As a result, appointments are easily and regularly scheduled, and relationships are developed with the doctor, who provides them with a dental home and prevention education to help prevent future dental emergencies.
VCMRF’s goal is to provide dental and vision services to low-income, vulnerable children under the age of 18 (CRP) and low-income seniors 62 and older, through the Senior Resource Program (SRP). The numerous children and seniors referred to the CRP/SRP each year reconfirm the pressing need for these programs; however, budget cuts at local, state and federal levels are literally dissolving the few health care programs available to these low-income, underserved children and seniors.
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Insight Center for Community and Economic Development, March 2013, reported that forty-seven percent of older adults (65+ years) in California are struggling to make ends meet. Yet, the official poverty measure identifies only 8% of these 1.76 million seniors as being in need. With fixed incomes and ever increasing costs, the others often fall through the cracks of our public support systems, unable to qualify for many programs.
The California Elder Economic Security Standard Index measures how much income is needed for a retired adult age 65 and older to adequately meet his or her basic needs, including, housing, food, out-of-pocket medical expenses, transportation, and other necessary spending. With the average Social Security payment of $12,100 this is not enough to live on, and yet, one out of three seniors in California relies exclusively on Social Security to cover their basic costs.
Many elders fall through the cracks. With the Federal Poverty Line being $10,890, and for an elderly renter living alone in Ventura County, the Elder Index is approximately $24,967/year which puts them far below what it costs to make ends meet. That’s over 31,000 elders struggling to make ends meet in Ventura County. In contrast, per the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), only 4% (3,000) of Ventura County elders are considered “poor,” with an annual individual income below $10,210. But a large number of other elders (28,000 or 35%) fall into the “eligibility gap,” with incomes above the FPL, but below the Elder Index. These elders don’t have enough money to cover their most basic needs, but have too much to qualify for many public programs.
Women living alone are more economically vulnerable. Historically, women have earned less than men. Today they still earn, nationally, an average of 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. Without a partner to share the expenses, and in the face of increasing costs and fixed incomes, 1 out of every 2 elder women living alone in Ventura County are struggling to make ends meet. Nearly 8 out of 10 Latino elders in Ventura County have incomes below the Elder Index. Although, non-Latino White elders are doing better, 43% are still economically insecure. Elders living alone are the most economically vulnerable.
Over 6 out of 10 elder renters living alone in Ventura County are trying to survive on incomes below the Elder Index. Close to half of elders living alone who own their home, but are still paying off a mortgage, are unable to meet their basic needs.
Senior Population Projections for Ventura County – 2010-2050
The 2010 U.S. Census, stated that 2,300 senior males and 4,200 senior females are living in poverty in Ventura County. Health inequities, including poor health status, disease risk factors, limited access to oral and vision care, and lack of education, are interrelated and reported among individuals with social, economic, and environmental disadvantages.
The goal is for VCMRF and its partners to improve the current level of oral and vision care for Ventura County children and seniors by continuing to improve, in partnership with others, access to needed health care for the most vulnerable and underserved residents of Ventura County.
According to Healthy People, oral health is essential to overall health. Good oral health improves a person’s ability to speak, smile, taste, tough chew, swallow and make facial expressions to show feeling and emotions. However, oral disease, from cavities to oral cancer, cause pain and disability for many Americans – especially those who lack access to care.
Many low-income seniors do not have access to ongoing preventive oral and vision programs. The goals are 1) To increase awareness of the importance of oral and vision health to overall health and well-being, 2) To increase acceptance and adoption of effective preventive interventions and to reduce disparities in access to dental treatment services, and 3) To increase annual checkups with the same patient to create a comfortable environment ans sense of community.
When people grow older they are more susceptible to oral and craniofacial diseases and conditions, such as gum diseases, oral and facial pain and oral, mouth and throat cancer. People who have the least access to preventive services and dental treatment have greater rates of oral and vision diseases. A person’s ability to access oral health care is associated with factors such as education level, income, race and ethnicity.