While preparing a meal for my Sweet Spousal Unit and myself, I started pondering the cost of our repast. It included fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and real meat (not bacon!). I almost had a heart attack at the price of those vegetables! The meat price was through the roof!
I realized we almost could have shared a meal at Olive Garden for the price of what I was making. The price of groceries is ridiculous! I had read an article a few hours before about the fact that the first Baby Boomers reach retirement age this year. How do people on a fixed income deal with rising food prices? How much can they really budget on food? That sent my mind off on a tangent. I got all involved emotionally with a fictional character I created right at the kitchen sink.
I was remembering a project in a Gerontology class I took in college. In this particular project we had to plan healthy meals for a woman on Social Security with a very limited income. I don’t remember what her budget was, but I remember it was small, and the poor gal had to eat a lot of chicken wings in my project. I was so very young while I was studying the process of aging! I can’t believe I had her eating chicken wings, when she could have had chicken breast and split it over more than one meal if she had to do so.
At my kitchen sink, a new elderly woman was born (she’s 68 years old). I’ll just call her Angela. She lives in an apartment near downtown with her cat to keep her company. She sold her home and moved to that apartment after her husband died, because she could no longer keep up with the yard and the house repairs. Though she has a tiny “nest egg” from the sale of her home, Angela doesn’t want to use it if she can help it. Her husband’s prolonged battle with cancer had cost them the small retirement savings they had. She knows that her nest egg could be gone in a heartbeat, so Angela tries to live within her means. That isn’t always easy!
The rent for her apartment is $700 a month, and that includes utilities (water, gas, electric). She could live in a less pricey apartment, but it wouldn’t be in a good part of town. And, she has to have an apartment on the first floor, because she can’t manage the stairs anymore. Apartments on the lower floors aren’t considered “safe,” so Angela has an added expense for a security system which runs her about $30 a month.
Because she doesn’t have much other entertainment, and because she needs to stay connected to the outside world, Angela pays for a Charter Communications Company “Bundle.” It supplies her television, telephone, and an internet connection. Angela was a computer programmer when she was younger. She MUST HAVE her internet! She darn sure pays for it, though. It costs her $75 a month.
Though she walks to the grocery store, and takes the bus to the Senior Center twice a week, Angela has kept her car. It’s an older model, but she doesn’t owe any car payments. She wants that car, because it spells “INDEPENDENCE.” And, because she likes to visit her grandchildren (who live 30 miles away) two or three times a month, she needs the car. She drives less than 300 miles a month, but with the price of gasoline, car maintenance, insurance, license tags, and inspection, Angela has to budget $80 a month to keep her automobile running.
She probably shouldn’t keep her cat, but how can she get rid of him? He’s twelve years old, and he has been Angela’s baby and her best friend. Without him, she would go stir crazy in that apartment. That darned cat is expensive, though. He eats the cheapest cat food, and he doesn’t get vaccinations (since he never goes outside), but she still shells out about $52 on him every month. Maybe she should wean him from having that one can of cat food every day? Or teach him how to use the toilet, so she doesn’t have to buy cat litter? He’s too old to learn new tricks.
Angela hasn’t had a new outfit in years. Well, she has indeed bought a few things at yard sales and the thrift shop. They were new to her, anyway. But, she is pretty frugal. She gave up wearing makeup years ago, and gave up manicures and the hairdresser. Still she gets her hair cut at the junior college every couple of months, and she needs moisturizer for her dry skin. She keeps expenses for her “vanity” at $15 a month.
She’s in good shape physically, except for the arthritis. She takes the vitamins her doctor prescribed, and Tylenol, and that’s about it. Still she has to pay on her supplemental insurance policy and for a pre-need burial policy. That’s another $50 out of her pocket every month.
Angela is lucky. Because she worked hard all her life (even while the children were in school), she earned a good wage. Her Social Security check every month is $1079.
Take out $700 for rent, $30 for the security system, $75 for the cable company, $80 for the car, $52 for the cat, $15 for vanity, $50 for health expenses. Angela has a whopping $77 left to buy food for the month! THAT’S if nothing goes over cost. THAT’S if she doesn’t EVER do anything fun!
Where’s the coffee? Desserts? Meat? Bacon? Fresh vegetables? Forget about it! That food budget won’t allow it. OMG! I am feeling such pain for Angela! Though she is a fictional character, her situation is NOT, and Angela is one of the lucky ones.
In the time it takes for a hummingbird to flap it’s wings, any of us could be in her situation. I’m only half kidding when I say take an elderly friend to lunch. Nutrition for our elder families and friends is not a laughing matter. So, what’s the answer for people like Angela? I don’t know. Tell me your thoughts.
Would I like to go to lunch?
Let me check my calendar. I think I’m free next Wednesday.