Seniors Deserve Better!

As a home health social worker, I work with homebound seniors who are often disabled by an illness. Something that drew me to social work was the opportunity to live my social justice values and uphold ethical principles to empower people. In my everyday work I feel I am able to do some of that, but sadly, a system based on money gets in the way.

The work I do is funded by Medicare. As much as people believe Medicare is a great system, it is limited. Medicare only pays for certain services. Oftentimes, I get to see a client for two appointments: to perform a needs assessment and then to give them resources. The legwork of applying for and getting services in place then falls on the senior or their family (if they are lucky enough to have that kind of support).

I have found this to be a real hurdle because many seniors are too sick to apply, get easily confused by the paperwork, or are required to go to social services when transportation is hard for them to come by. The actual process of signing up for services is arduous and many give up before services are established. I am often reassigned to clients once they have been re-hospitalized and discharged without ever having used the resources I provided them. I don’t blame them because of the obstacles in their way. Seniors should not have to put up with this.

I run up against my limitations as a social worker just as much as my clients run up against their own limitations. The capitalist system is the common denominator. I believe that all seniors deserve to be treated with the best of care. After all, seniors worked all their lives, raised families, and contributed to society. I believe that seniors deserve to be taken care of; our society owes them that. It is the most humane thing to do.

I often meet seniors who live all alone. Some of them don’t have a lot of friends or family to help take care of them. Even those who have family may need help. Many children of seniors are “sandwiched” between taking care of their own children and their elderly parents at the same time. It’s difficult to find the time to provide proper care to seniors and make the money required to hire caregivers. Some people I visit qualify for programs that help. Many make too much to qualify for help but not enough to pay for services out of pocket. What happens to these people?

There are seniors who struggle to eat, take a shower, get dressed, get out of bed, walk, or go to the bathroom. They need help, and they deserve to live a life of dignity. We cannot cast people aside simply because we deem them unable to contribute to society or take care of themselves. Seniors have so much to give, even if they aren’t able to do paid work.

Every one of us needs help at some point in our lives, and as we age, we need more. We need to embrace our elders and ensure they are fully integrated into society. Seniors should be honored, valued and cherished for their wisdom and life experience. What better way to demonstrate this than to help them live out their lives with dignity, respect, and as much independence as possible?

Part of the reason why seniors aren’t given the treatment they deserve is because our society doesn’t value our elders enough. And that is definitely something we need to work on as a whole. There is almost no one on earth with a senior family member who doesn’t want that family member cared for and protected. Often what stands between safety and a quality of life, and an increased risk for injury and mental and emotional distress, is the profit motive.

Programs like Medicare and In Home Support Services (IHSS) are subsidized by taxpayers, but private senior services are not. Those who can afford to pay out of pocket, do. But what happens to the many out there who cannot afford the high expense of senior care? It is these folks who we have a moral obligation to care for, no matter the cost. But do not count on capitalists to be on board with that. Their “values” dictate a cutthroat system that says if something does not make a profit, it should not exist. And this can literally come to pass if seniors do not get the proper care they need. Indeed, it can be a life or death issue.

Socialism offers a stark alternative. Socialist values demand that seniors are given proper care and services they need regardless of the cost. It is the right thing to do on a moral and ethical level, and it will also save money in the long run. The money it would take to fully care for our nation’s seniors would be money well spent.

The Socialist Party platform is clear that seniors deserve to live a “dignified life, free from economic hardship.” In addition, our party calls for adequate “income, housing, health care, medication, and access to social services” for our elders. The Socialist Party is not messing around when it comes to seniors, even calling for the “right of retirement at age 55” and “a minimum annual retirement income of $25,000, tax free, and protected from inflation by cost of living increases.” This would be in addition to an increase in-home services so that seniors can, “remain independent in their homes and community.”

It is clear to me that seniors would live a better quality of life under a socialist system. Socialism values human life, whereas capitalism values money. Socialism eliminates profit as the decisive factor in the type of life that seniors live. Furthermore, as a social worker, I feel a socialist society would ensure I could work to my fullest potential to help seniors to make the best choices for them.

It is up to us to make sure that all people have access to the services they need. Hopefully, we will all be seniors someday. Most of us will need those services just as much – perhaps even more – as the seniors we know now. So it just makes sense to create a society that supports us all. Our seniors deserve better – our seniors deserve socialism! Let’s make it happen!


Tina Phillips

is a social worker who enjoys writing, advocacy, good food, and thrifting. She lives in Oakland, CA with her partner, Rachel, four cats, and their dog, Miss Piggy. You can read more of her writing on her blog at

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