Costs soar for seniors – how will the nation respond?

Sunday’s Chicago Tribune features a heartbreaking story about senior citizens playing bingo in the back of a grocery store, hoping for winnings like eggs, chicken, fruit, bread and fresh fish.

One of them is 84-year-old Ruth Graves, a retired waitress living on Social Security, shops on Wednesdays to save 10 percent on her purchases, and supplements her income by selling Avon products.

She, like more than 30 million other people over age 65, relies on Social Security as a primary source of income, averaging about $1,079 a month.

With gasoline prices around $4 a gallon, staples such as eggs, bread and milk rising rapidly and utility costs soaring, many seniors are caught in a financial crunch. With only Social Security, pensions or personal savings, experts say, many cannot keep up with inflation.

More and more seniors face shrinking nest eggs, the potential of foreclosure, and an increasing number of scams that threaten to deplete their savings.

Many of today’s seniors are old enough to remember surviving at least part of the Great Depression with their parents – many served their country, either at home or abroad in one form or another, during World War II.

This is a test of conscience for America. How will we respond to those who have given their best years to the nation – those in their twilight years, now faced with going hungry and getting sick in the midst of diminishing economic security?

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