by Dr. Chad Audi
We’re in the business of “happy endings” here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). Whether it’s helping a homeless individual get back on his feet or giving a drug addict the tools to kick her habit and re-claim her children, we believe in fairy tale endings.
Recently, I stepped in to keep a former Motown Records musician and his wife from becoming homeless. For the past year, ex-saxophonist 83-year-old Kenny Brinkley and his wife Sandi had been in danger of losing their home. Rather than see this elderly couple put out on the street, DRMM presented them with the keys to a new house in Detroit. You can read more about the Brinkley’s story here.
Just the thought of this elderly couple becoming homeless was incomprehensible to me. Just as disturbing is a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness that predicts a 33-percent increase in the number of homeless elderly Americans in the 10-year period between 2010 and 2020. The major reason for the rise is because the Baby Boomer generation is starting to turn 65.
The increase in the number of homeless senior citizens means there will be an urgent need for senior housing, health care and other services. And, for providers of homeless services like DRMM, that means we will need to be prepared to serve more people and cater to the unique needs of the elderly.
As we approach 2020, it is going to be extremely important for local, state and national officials to find ways to meet the growing needs of our senior citizens, especially through affordable public housing and senior housing programs.
But for now, I’m pleased that we could make a difference in the lives of a pair of Detroit senior citizens. The Brinkleys can now enjoy their golden years and a happy ending.
Dr. Chad Audi
By Dr. Chad Audi
A recent news story revealed that more senior citizens than ever are showing up at soup kitchens across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports an increase of 81 percent last year in the number of seniors living alone who sought help from food pantries, compared to two years earlier. Catholic Charities USA, which helps the needy, noted a 54 percent rise in requests from seniors for food and services in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2008.
So what does this all mean? Naturally, much of the blame can be placed on the current recession. Retirement funds and nest eggs are drying up. Health care is in flux, making it necessary for seniors to choose between buying medication or food and causing them to skip medical appointments. Social Security and small pensions are not enough to keep up with mortgage or rent payments and utility bills. It’s hard to buy food when the prices keep rising and you are on a fixed income.
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have a special place in our hearts for the elderly who are suffering through tough times. We do what we can by offering food, shelter, clothing, medical and dental care, and companionship at a time when they need it most — in their golden years. Life can be very lonely when you are aged with inadequate finances or no family and friends around. Many of our senior citizens are too proud and too private to seek help. After all, they survived through the Great Depression and other economic downturns in our history, so they may feel that they can make it now too. But that’s not always possible.
We must respect our older citizens. They have come through a lot and continue to go through a lot today. Check on your elderly neighbors and relatives. Make sure they are eating right and have access to enough food. Spend some time sitting and talking with seniors. We owe it to them.
By Dr. Chad Audi
There’s a particularly disturbing news story coming out of Michigan. A 93-year-old man froze to death in his home just days after the municipal power company installed a “limiter” device that restricted the man’s use of electricity, because he owed more than $1,000. The device limits power to the home and shuts off the electricity when usage rises past a set level. It’s not known whether the elderly Bay City man — a World War II veteran — had been told how to reset the device to restore power. When his body was discovered, the temperature in his home was below 32 degrees.
What a heartbreaking story! The golden years are supposed to be times of rest, relaxation and joy for our seniors who have spent the majority of their lives working and raising children. But too often they find themselves in situations where they face life and death choices, such as whether to have heat or buy groceries. Or whether to buy medication or pay utility bills.
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we see senior citizens who are experiencing these painful circumstances. They may need a good, nutritious meal. Or they may be unable to pay their heating bills and need a warm place to sleep. Sixty-five year-old “Jonathan” came to DRMM after a fire destroyed his home and he had nowhere else to turn. Medical problems, including a cancer diagnosis, made the future even more frightening and lonely for him. We provided Jonathan with a roof over his head, clothing, food and access to medical care.
Our seniors have a lot of pride. It’s difficult for many of them to ask for assistance. After all, they’ve survived life-changing events like the Great Depression, World Wars, civil rights disturbances, and natural disasters. Through it all, they made a way for themselves. Don’t we owe them some compassion in return?