“If I were a younger person, I think I would be able to rebound from all the difficulties I’m having,” she told me. “I just never foresaw myself being in this situation at the age I am now.”
“Please help! I just turned 65 and [am] disabled on disability. My husband is on Social Security and we cannot even afford to buy groceries. This is not what I had in mind for the golden years.”
When asked about her troubles, Ross, 65, talks about a tornado that swept through central Florida on Groundhog Day in 2007, destroying her home. Too late, she learned her insurance coverage wasn’t adequate and wouldn’t replace most of her belongings.
To make ends meet, Ross started working two jobs: as a hairdresser and a customer service representative at a convenience store. With her new husband, Douglas Ross, a machinist, she purchased a new home. Recovery seemed possible.
Then, Elaine Ross fell twice over several years, breaking her leg, and ended up having three hip replacements. Trying to manage diabetes and beset by pain, Ross quit working in 2016 and applied for Social Security Disability Insurance, which now pays her $919 a month.
She doesn’t have a pension. Douglas stopped working in 2019, no longer able to handle the demands of his job because of a bad back. He, too, doesn’t have a pension. With Douglas’ Social Security payment of $1,051 a month, the couple live on just over $23,600 annually. Their meager savings evaporated with various emergency expenditures, and they sold their home.
Their rent in Empire, Alabama, where they now live, is $540 a month. Other regular expenses include $200 a month for their truck and gas, $340 for Medicare Part B premiums, $200 for electricity, $100 for medications, $70 for phone, and hundreds of dollars — Ross didn’t offer a precise estimate — for food.
“All this inflation, it’s just killing us,” she said. Nationally, the price of food consumed at home is expected to rise 10% to 11% this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.