The 2019 Status of Older Women in Minnesota report examines the economic well-being, health, and safety of women ages 55 and older. Here is a summary of some of the findings.
More than half of Minnesota women age 85 and older live alone. Almost half of elder women who rent their homes spend half or more of their income on housing.
Many older women rely on accumulated wealth to survive, including home equity, in lieu of earned income. However, redlining, discriminatory mortgage-lending practices, lack of access to credit, and income disparities have created barriers to ownership for women of color and Native women.
After they are no longer able to drive, older women on average live an additional 11 years. For those who are aging in place, limited transportation is a cause of isolation. This is especially true for the 70 percent of Minnesota women over the age of 65 who live in rural areas.
In Minnesota, assisted living or nursing home care costs are increasing faster than the national average. In 2017, the median monthly assisted-living costs for women over age 65 were more than twice their median monthly total income of $1,518. For Black women, the costs were more than four times higher than income.
Almost half of LGBTQ+ seniors applying for retirement housing report experiencing discrimination. LGBTQ+ women are more likely to be aging alone and estranged from family.
Because of lack of options, Minnesota’s rural caregivers are more likely to be providing care for non-relatives. Lack of legal recognition for this non-familial care can result in fewer resources. Those who provide the bulk of caregiving are increasingly depended upon to pay expenses. They also tend to be providing childcare.
Health disparities earlier in life often lead to chronic lifelong conditions for older women. Ten percent of Minnesota’s white women ages 55-64 report that they could not see a doctor because of costs. Compare that to 32 percent of Latina women, 18 percent of Black women, 12 percent of Native women, and 16 percent of lesbians who cited a financial barrier to healthcare.
Full time year round wage gap for women ages 55-64 compared to white men
A lifetime of lower earnings, more time spent in unpaid caregiving roles, part-time jobs that do not offer retirement plans, and less access to retirement benefits affects the financial stability of older women. Women’s retirement savings contributions have remained flat during the past four years, while savings for men grew significantly over the same time period. There are nearly twice as many Minnesota women above the age of 64 living in poverty than men.
In short, a lifetime of disproportionately low wages, time spent in unpaid caregiving roles, and other challenges, result in financial disparities between women and men as they age in Minnesota. This is especially impactful in the lives of older women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women in rural areas.