Senior Citizens Struggle with Mounting Debt

May 28, 2013 | | CNNMoney |

It used to be that many Americans entered retirement having paid off their mortgages and most of their other debts. This should have been senior citizens' Golden Years.

Nowadays, more and more people over the age of 65 are struggling with mounting debt levels, fueled primarily by mortgages and credit cards. The average debt held by senior citizens has ballooned to $50,000 in 2010, up 83% since 2001, according to Federal Reserve data crunched by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. [...]

Credit card debt has also become more pervasive among seniors. One-third of them are relying on plastic to cover basic living expenses, according to Demos, a public policy organization that advocates for lower- and middle-income Americans.

Some consumer advocates say that the increasing debt load among the elderly could pose big problems, especially since seniors are more likely to have growing medical costs and less likely to be still working.

"If people are relying on credit cards to pay living expenses, it's difficult to see how that turns around if they aren't earning additional income," said Amy Traub, senior policy analyst at Demos.