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About the Elder Index

The California Elder Index shows that

39% of older

Californians (or 1.46M) who are not "poor", as defined by the official Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPL), still do not have enough income to meet their basic needs.

More Accurate than the Federal Poverty Guidelines

The Elder Index is the only county-specific measure of the minimum income necessary to cover all of a retired older adult’s (65+ years) basic expenses—housing, food, medical care, and transportation. It provides a complete picture of what it takes for seniors to make ends meet in every state. The California Elder Index is available for all 58 counties in the state and the City of Los Angeles.

The Federal Poverty Guidelines (or FPL), in contrast, is an inadequate measure that is all too often still used to determine eligibility for public programs and state and local funding levels. This half century old measure is the same nationwide: $11,490 in 2013 for a one-person household. The FPL is so low because it is based entirely on the cost of a bare-bones food diet—failing to account for local housing, transportation and, most importantly, medical costs, which can be particularly costly for the elderly.

How the Elder Index is Calculated

The Elder Index is calculated using the most current and credible national and state data sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Geographically relevant data is used for each county in California, to account for local market rates for housing, food, health care, transportation, and other basic necessities. The Elder Index methodology was originally developed by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and is applied by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in California.

Click here for factsheets and policy briefs on the Elder Index.