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We were curious, what's it like to be a senior citizen in Las Vegas?
Let's face it, we aren't always going to be able to ditch work to hang out by the pool with our friends. Or, go club hopping on the Strip.
At some point, our lives are filled with challenges we used to take for granted, like driving to the grocery store or finding ourselves living hundreds or thousands of miles from our families.
So, do we respect our elders in Las Vegas? It's a question that needs an answer since our senior population continues to grow.
Approximately 30 percent of newcomers to Las Vegas are senior citizens who are joining an already elderly population (17 percent of Clark County’s population is 60 or older).
Many move away from family and support systems and inclement weather to live in a state that appeals to seniors with age-restricted housing communities, year-round senior activities, and low taxes.
Dana Serrata is the executive director of Helping Hands of Vegas Valley. She told KNPR's State of Nevada many seniors see the advantages but not the disadvantages.
“A lot of times they don’t take into consideration what some of the cons are to coming here, a lot of pros but there are also some cons,” Serrata said.
One of the biggest is the impact on Social Security benefits, which she said can drop by half because they are tethered to cost of living.
“I can’t tell you how many seniors I talk to that are shocked by that when their Social Security changes,” she said.
Serrata said many people have a budget in mind when they move but it proves not to work out in Las Vegas.
After a few years of retirement, these seniors often find themselves losing their partner, having their income diminished, becoming seriously ill, and losing their driving privileges or the companion who drove them to their errands.
Many find themselves alone for the first time in their lives. Forty percent of Las Vegas Valley retirees live alone and 10 percent of seniors live below the poverty level.
However, Hilarie Grey, the interim state director and director of communications for AARP Nevada, said problems like food insecurity, which means a difficultly getting food whether because of transportation or lack of resources, don't just happen to seniors who live in poverty.
“When you’re talking about your finances, whether it’s your mortgage, or choosing to keep your electricity on or getting prescription drugs those are choices that are pitted against your food supply and that’s not right,” she said.
Grey said the economic downturn forced a lot of seniors to rely entirely on Social Security, instead of retirement savings.
Seniors also find themselves becoming increasingly isolated, unable to go to doctor appointments, pharmacies, and grocery stores.
The public transportation system in Las Vegas is not adequate to meet the needs of all of its citizens, especially those who are not ambulatory and are unable to wait hours to change buses especially in the heat of summer.
Serrata said the community has a whole could do more to bridge the gap for many seniors.
“It’s more and more important for our community to be more cohesive and for us to stop being so isolated and learn to know our neighbors, learn to work together and collaborate more as social service agencies but also as a community,” she said.
Dana Serrata, executive director, Helping Hands of Vegas Valley, Hilarie Grey, interim state director and director of communications, AARP Nevada.
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