Elderly hit harder by recession

The recession dominates conversations from high-priced Raleigh neighborhoods to the Johnston County senior center where Janie Corbett eats lunch with worried friends.

"They say that everything is so out of reach, that it's getting to the point that a lot of them have to do without some of their medicine," said Corbett, 74, a manufacturing retiree who lives in rural Johnston County.

As the recession deepens, more older North Carolinians are needing help refinancing homes, keeping the heat on, affording health care, finding jobs and getting enough to eat.

Social service outfits that cater to the elderly are struggling to keep pace with increased demand. For example, Meals on Wheels of Wake County is serving about 50 more people a day than last year, and the waiting list has ballooned from 193 people last year to 297 now, said Alan Winstead, the group's executive director.

"We are expanding the program, but not fast enough to meet the need," he said.

Economic woes are affecting all ages, of course, but older people have extra physical and fiscal vulnerability. Turning down the thermostat a few degrees can cause hypothermia, for example, for people 65 or older. Eating at home alone rather than spending time with family and friends can lead to isolation.

Making the situation more dire, the gray recession is playing out as state support, private donations and nonprofit help are falling – and as jobs are drying up.

Wake County's job location service is seeing a 20 percent increase over last year from older people looking for work.

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