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PBS Show Focuses on Seniors Under Siege in the Recession

New America Media, Paul Kleyman Posted: Feb 06, 2009

In "Over Fifty, Overdrawn: How is the financial meltdown affecting boomers and seniors," NOW's Maria Hinojosa, a senior correspondent, reports that "people 50 and older hold a staggering one quarter of the delinquent mortgages in the country. And for older black Americans the situation is even worse. The PBS news magazine explores how older black Americans are seeing foreclosures on their homes at double the rate of others. Overall, one in four foreclosures and personal bankruptcies are falling on people 55 or older.

Hinojosa traveled to South Carolina for the TV show, which aired on Jan. 23 but can be viewed anytime on the show's website at www.pbs.org/now. Among the seniors profiled is a black widowed, retired teacher in Columbia, who saw her monthly $600 Social Security check disappear in fees to predatory lenders.

Hinojosa also cites other troubling developments. Credit card debt has mounted for many of the 40 million older people, growing by 200 percent in the past two decades. Elders who have seen their 401(k) and other retirement accounts cut in two found themselves pushed into refinancing their homes with sub-prime loans, even when they qualified for prime loans. To make ends meet, one couple tells Hinojosa they've taken jobs in a shipyard. One quarter of home foreclosures are hitting Americans age 55 or older. Thats 12 times the rate in 1991. Susan Arnold, of AARP's South Carolina chapter, notes that many of today's elders are from the Silent Generation, those between World War II's Greatest Generation and the Boomers. They won't complain about their dire economic situations, she told NOW. And they blame themselves for falling into debt, even when they were pushed or tricked into untenable situations. Their adult children need to talk to them about their finances, says Arnold, to ensure that they are not in trouble or can seek help if they are. The program can be viewed online at www.pbs.org/now.

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