At the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota, Florida, talking about inflation really strikes a chord.
At a card table there, CNN met with a group of seniors, all on fixed incomes, who spoke about feeling the squeeze from steep price hikes over the past year.
Katherine Janes, 81, said she had to turn to her son for financial help.
“It makes things a little easier,” Janes said. “Everything is expensive.”
Ron Longhurst cut back on evening socializing, which has been difficult as a single 79-year-old.
“Day-to-day, I stay home more,” he said. “You think twice about the big night out… I’m taking maybe a week or two longer between haircuts.”
Ann Smith, 82, cut down on her favorite “simple pleasure” — drinking soda.
“I used to enjoy a Coke or two a day,” she said. “I now do one a day, maybe one every other day instead.”
The white-hot housing market is making things worse
Seniors on a fixed income have been hit particularly hard by inflation, with September prices up 8.2% from a year ago. The price hikes are even steeper in areas like Tampa, Florida, where the housing market has exploded.
Sharon Johnson, 67, said her family’s monthly rent in Tampa jumped $350 this year, rising to roughly $3,100 per month. And with other bills surging, like her utilities, it has thrown her budget into chaos.
“The cost of living is not working well right now for us. It’s hard,” Johnson said. “I’ve never had to feel a worry about how we were going to eat, but today, we’re only doing light foods, sandwiches.”
They already have some boxes packed, expecting another rent hike when their lease ends early next year.
Johnson, a retired university counselor, and her husband, a retired engineer and teacher, moved to Florida from Michigan three years ago, bringing along her sister and nephew to live with them.
The family would like to buy a home, but the draining price hikes and red-hot housing market are making that more difficult. Johnson says they may have to downsize as a result.
“We are middle income, but with less to work with than when we worked full time,” Johnson said. “We have worked hard. And we’ve been honest. Then why is it going in reverse?”
Next year, Social Security recipients will receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment of 8.7%, the largest increase since 1981.
But for now, many seniors are feeling little relief.
Barbara Smith, 70, is a caretaker and also volunteers at Trinity Cafe in Tampa, a restaurant that serves free meals to the less fortunate. But she said she has come to rely on the take-home meal she gets after her shift and it is often the only one she eats all day.
“Then I don’t have to go and purchase it, because I don’t have the money to do that,” Smith said.
As she weathers price hikes on food, gas, and personal items, she’s stopped buying puzzles, her favorite hobby. The strain of inflation can be isolating, she said.
“If it wasn’t for volunteering, I’d probably be insane by now,” she said.