Addressing Low Literacy and Numeracy among Poor and Low-Income Older Americans

Background

Among the most vulnerable older Americans are those who lack literacy and numeracy proficiency. Literacy rates are generally lower among older people than younger people and are much lower for older people from racial and ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination than for older whites. Low literacy, including computer literacy, can isolate older adults and impede their ability to find a job, advance in a career, and access public benefits. Lack of ability to understand numerical concepts is also a health risk (e.g., when it results in miscalculating medical dosages). Low literacy and numeracy also increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of financial fraud.

Addressing Low Literacy and Numeracy among Poor and Low-Income Older Americans: Policy

Improving literacy and numeracy

In this policy: FederalState

Federal, state, and local government policies should promote adult literacy and numeracy, including computer know-how and electronic communication skills, and make provision for adult literacy and numeracy programs.

The federal government should create incentives for private and public agencies to provide educational opportunities to older people with literacy and numeracy difficulties.

States should support the use of older people as employees in literacy training programs.

Federal and state agencies should continue to collect comprehensive data on literacy and numeracy rates among older people, including racial and ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination and people with disabilities.