Econ slump hitting older Americans hard, AARP says

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By Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The recession is hitting older Americans hard, forcing many to cut back on contributions to retirement accounts and extras like entertainment and restaurant meals, AARP officials said on Tuesday.

A survey of Americans aged 45 and older conducted for the AARP, an influential advocacy group for people over 50, found many had suffered savings and investment losses, are having trouble paying for essentials such as food, gas and medicine and are planning to postpone retirement.

"The economic downturn last year hit our members hard," AARP CEO Bill Novelli told reporters.

The 40-million member group said it is working to ensure the stimulus package being developed by President-elect Barack Obama includes help for the unemployed and aid to cash-strapped states for health care.

The group is also seeking help for homeowners facing bankruptcy, money for job training in health care professions, and aid for doctors and hospitals to upgrade health information sharing technology.

The group said it also is seeking long-term economic improvements such as broad health care reform aimed at controlling costs and improving care.

"We cannot fix the economy with out fixing health care," said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.

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