Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 02-18-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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6 SENIOR LIVING GUIDE FEBRUARY 18-24, 2021 | THE VALLEY BREEZE According to Housing Works RI at Roger Williams University, findings from a study found that some 41 per- cent of households in Rhode Island with the head of the household age 55 and older involve someone living alone. Of those living alone, 51 percent have household incomes of less than $25,000 per year, and 76 percent have household incomes of less than $50,000. A total of 30 percent of residents in the state are age 55 or older, one of the highest percentages in the coun- try. Nationally and in Rhode Island, income disparity is growing among older households, and in this state, the cost of living keeps rising while incomes remain stagnant. For the 47 percent of RI households age 55 and older earning less than $50,000 a year, moving to a new community or downsizing within their own is not affordable, according to the findings. In addition to the urgent need to create more affordable housing for senior citizens, advocates say more programs are needed to help senior citizens, and they encourage seniors to take advantage of every resource available to them, including tax exemptions and discounts. The issue is greater for older Black and Latino populations, with far more of them being cost-burdened with their housing. Older white and Asian households in Rhode Island have 26 percent renters, while all other categories are above 50 percent and Latino residents are above 70 percent. While 25 percent of all older households are very low-income to extremely low-income, there are a much greater number of older white households with middle to high income than all other categories. In isolating older households of color, Latino households experience a much higher rate of being very low-income than all other aging households at 52 percent. "We have a lot of work to do," said Brenda Clement, director of Housing Works RI, an organization that envi- sions a state where all communities embrace a variety of housing choices, with affordability playing a key role. Rhode Island has the third oldest housing stock in the country, indicating higher expenses in maintenance and modifications. A total of 74 percent of housing was built before 1980, meaning it's not conforming with the Americans with Disabilities Act and often has issues with lead paint, while 62 percent was built before 1970, meaning there are issues with asbestos. A total of 28 percent of older households are renters, and 54 per- cent of renter households are housing cost-burdened. Of the 72 percent of older households with homeowners, 31 percent of those are cost-burdened. The median two-bedroom rent in Rhode Island for 2018 was $1,621 per month, and the maximum monthly SSI payment for that year was $790 for an individual or $1,204 for a couple. "These conditions make it more likely for aging renters to be housing insecure," states the report. As the number and share of older households grows to unprecedented levels, inequalities are becoming more visible, it finds. Many house- holds in the age 50-64 range have experienced great financial losses due to the great recession. Locally, the foreclosure crisis disproportionately impacted communities of color, exac- erbating the disparity. Aging households are living longer with fewer resources and growing housing insecurity, states the report. COVID-19 has further impacted seniors, often adding even greater cost burdens even as they also deal with the immense impacts of the pan- demic. "Rhode Island's stock of senior and disabled housing is insufficient to meet the needs of the current aging population and falls far short of meet- ing the need for future seniors," states the report. "More housing needs to be developed, in every community, that meets both affordability and accessi- bility needs of an aging population." There are resources available, according to the Rhode Island Office of Health Aging page www.ohcd. ri.gov/consumer and other sources. Here are some of them: • The United Way's 211 hotline is available around the clock for anyone who needs information on resources or referrals. • Foreclosure/homeownership retention help is available through The Housing Network, the Rhode Island Housing Help Center, Rhode Island Legal Services, community action programs, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. • There are also resources there for tribal housing. • HomelocatorRI.net has free resources to help people find hous- ing (rental and homeownership) in Rhode Island which fits their needs and budget. • The HEAP program, avail- able at www.dhs.ri.gov/Programs/ HEAPProgramInfo.php, helps keep people warm in the colder months with help on heating costs. • Also on the resources page at oha.ri.gov, seniors can find informa- tion on single-family housing repair loans and grants, available to very low-income elderly homeowners to remove health and safety hazards. • Local senior centers and munici- pal tax assessor sites also often have more information on available pro- grams and tax breaks. Links to each city or town's resources for seniors, including senior housing, food assis- tance, transportation assistance, senior centers and advocacy services, are available at www.rielderinfo.com/i- am-a-senior . Seniors struggling with housing, but help available By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com CLEMENT Conspiracy theories fall apart with enough news literacy We're a long way from the days when conspiracy theories were relegated to the supermarket tabloid and scoffed at on the way past the conveyor belt. Conspiracies have gone mainstream, funneled to the people through constant digital streams. Enter the News Literacy Project, an organization dedicated to helping people become better news consumers through understanding of the pitfalls in the informa- tion landscape. Given the May 2019 FBI intelligence bulletin, made public in a news report last August, that "fringe conspiracy theories" are linked with forms of domestic terrorism, it's worth considering what type of person might fall under their sway. Almost anyone can, said the News Literacy Project, but people with greater news literacy skills are less likely to believe far-fetched theories. The FBI memo included examples of "fringe political conspiracy theories" that, for example, the United Nations is "being used by an evil global cabal to erode American sovereignty, strip away individual liberties, and bring foreign troops to American soil in order to replace democracy with global tyranny." According to a 2017 study, "News media literacy and conspiracy endorsement," it's not just "the proverbial nut job" who believes conspiracy theories; rational think- ers also fall into these cognitive traps. But the people who do not believe them are more likely to practice the same mental skills as are used in news literacy. In a study, nearly 400 participants were shown 10 conspiracy theories, half appeal- ing more to conservatives, half to liberals. The promising finding: Both liberals and conservatives with greater news literacy skills were not persuaded by the conspiracy theories aligned with their political beliefs. The researchers, Stephanie Craft of the University of Illinois, Seth Ashley of Boise State University and Adam Maksl of Indiana University Southeast, found that "individuals who give credence to conspira- cy theories know comparatively little about how the news media work." News literacy practices help quash the urge to buy into complicated pseudo-expla- nations, the study noted. Visit www.newslit.org for more on the educational resources available to become a better news consumer. 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