Compassion, Caregiving and Economic Vulnerability
Mrs. Florence Dobson died in a hospital bed at 4:15 a.m. yesterday in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. She was 96 years old. Mrs. Dobson spent her final hours praying with her two daughters. She was afraid, but thankful for her long life and for her family. Part of what Mrs. Dobson counted among her blessings was that as she grew more frail in her old age her daughters were able to help care for her. The family was never well off financially, but managed to get by through thrift, economy of spending and abundance of hard work. Until going into the hospital this past week, Mrs. Dobson resided comfortably in a small home with one of her daughters.
With the support and care of her family, Mrs. Dobson was able to age gracefully and die with dignity. This makes her a rare exception.
According to From Bad to Worse, a report by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, the fear of poverty and outliving one's resources is an increasingly common experience among today's senior citizens. Three-quarters of all senior households find themselves in an economically precarious position and are unable to afford the most basic expenses. Lack of sufficient assets, rising housing costs and fixed budgets not meeting essential expenses are the major drivers of senior economic insecurity. This situation is even more dangerous for single women, who often find themselves without the resources necessary to ensure their survival and dignity in old age.
Along with Sheila Bair and Leo Gerard, Demos honored Ai-jen Poo last night at our Transforming America Awards Gala. Ms. Poo is founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an organization dedicated to gaining rights and respect for the millions of individuals who work tirelessly to care for our children, our sick, and our elderly. In her inspiring remarks, one of the themes Ms. Poo talked was about the reality of our rapidly aging population and the need to recognize the skilled and difficult job of caring for those living in their most vulnerable stage of life.
Underlying Ms. Poo's message was a call to compassion.
Ms. Poo's words reminded the audience that we and our loved ones all begin and end in the position of Mrs. Dobson. With that unavoidable reality in mind, we should all be motivated to ensure that the vulnerable, and those who care for them, have the support they need to carry on.