PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- Years-long waiting lists for affordable housing and a decline in the returns of personal investments has led to a silent crisis for senior citizens in Florida, the president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans warned on Friday.
Tony Fransetta, the FARA president, predicted the problem would get worse as more of us aged.
By 2030, he said, one in five Americans would be over 55-years-old.
"We have a silent crisis that is coming at us. It's kind of like walking into a tunnel and you see a train coming toward you. You see a headlight. It's coming and we're doing nothing to prevent it," Fransetta said.
Fransetta said an increased cost of living, a decline in 401(k), pension and stock returns and a lack of affordable housing have contributed to the problem.
Adding to the problem, he said, was a drastic cut to subsidies for senior housing -- from more than $400 million in 2005 to $78 million in 2011.
"Most times, after paying the rent, nothing is left to get medication or even food," said Julia Brown, a senior citizen. "It's disgraceful for America. [It is] one of the richest countries in the world. The seniors are not being taken care of. And, that's terrible."
Jason Pincus, a director of field operations for the Fort Lauderdale-based Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation, said some seniors have waited three years or longer to find affordable housing.
He said the stress weighed on many families.
"As a child, me and my sister have to help my mother, you know, every month [to] be able to cover her expenses," Pincus said. "It's come to the point where I can't afford it. I'm not going to get it anymore. So, we're having to help chip in where we can't afford it."
Onthoniel Rivera, a senior citizen, said he has waited five years for affordable housing -- and is still waiting.
"There's a lot of people in the same situation as mine. Or, maybe, worse," Rivera said. "I've been living in a small room [with] no kitchen, no stove, you know?" And, trying to make it in there until I find something better."
Fransetta said FARA and others have lobbied the Florida legislature and members of Congress to better-fund affordable housing for seniors to get ahead of the problem before it gets worse.
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