Around half of U.S. seniors living alone can\u0026#039;t afford their basic necessities, statistics published Monday revealed, underscoring calls for legislation to expand Social Security and lower prescription drug prices.\r\n\r\n\u0022The biggest worry I have is not being able to afford living in my home or becoming ill. I know that medical expenses could wipe me out in no time financially.\u0022\r\n\r\nFifty-four percent of older U.S. women who live on their own and 45% of older men in the same situation are either impoverished by federal standards or cannot cover their necessary expenses, according to the Elder Index, a project of the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. For older couples, the figure is 24%.\r\n\r\n\u0022The Elder Index confirms what we already knew: The cost of living is just too high for older Americans, and their earned benefits aren\u0026#039;t keeping pace with these costs,\u0022 the Alliance for Retired Americans tweeted in response to the report. \r\n\r\nRamsey Alwin, president and chief executive of the National Council on Aging, told Kaiser Health News (KHN) that the group hopes to promote a robust dialogue about \u0022the true cost of aging in America.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022There\u0026#039;s a myth that Social Security and Medicare miraculously take care of all of people\u0026#039;s needs in older age,\u0022 said Alwin. \u0022The reality is they don\u0026#039;t, and far too many people are one crisis away from economic insecurity.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWilliam Arnone, CEO of the National Academy of Social Insurance, told KHN that \u0022the poverty rate just doesn\u0026#039;t cut it as a realistic look at the struggles older adults are having. The Elder Index is a reality check.\u0022\r\n\r\nKHN interviewed Fran Seeley, an 81-year-old retired schoolteacher in Portland, Maine whose monthly income consists of $925 in Social Security payments, $287 from an individual retirement account, and $400 from a reverse mortgage. Seeley\u0026#039;s annual income of $19,300 falls well below the $22,560 the index deems necessary for an older adult in excellent health living in a home they own with no mortgage payments.\r\n\r\nWith high inflation straining her budget even further, Seeley said that \u0022I have to cut back in any way I can.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022The biggest worry I have is not being able to afford living in my home or becoming ill,\u0022 she told KHN. \u0022I know that medical expenses could wipe me out in no time financially.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe Equity in Aging Collaborative—a new initiative by 25 advocacy groups seeking \u0022to address issues of poverty among older adults who have and continue to face inequities across their lifetimes\u0022—is planning to use the index to influence lawmakers to enact laws and policies that ease the financial burden of aging.\r\n\r\nIntroduced last October by Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.), H.R. 5723—the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust—would, if passed as written, increase program benefits, protect against inflation, end the five-month waiting period for disability benefits, strengthen the Social Security trust funds, and implement other measures.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is fighting to torpedo Senate Democrats\u0026#039; modest proposal to reduce prescription drug prices by requiring Medicare to directly negotiate the prices of a limited number of medications.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSurveys have shown that expanding Social Security and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices are overwhelmingly popular with voters. According to recent Data for Progress polling, 76% of all likely U.S. voters support the former policy, while 83% back the latter.