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Kai Ryssdal: The AARP said today bankruptcy filings by older Americans have shot up over the past 20 years. At the same time, the number of filings has fallen for Americans under the age of 54.
Jeremy Hobson has that story now from Washington.
Jeremy Hobson: AARP's policy director John Rother calls the results a "worrisome sign."
John Rother: People who should be saving for retirement instead being essentially wiped out at an age where they really don't have much time to recover.
Hobson: Looking at these numbers... Americans aged 55-64, a 40 percent increase in bankruptcy filing. 65-74 year olds, 125 percent increase. 75-84 year olds, 433 percent increase... What's going on?
Rother: The most obvious explanation is health care costs, particularly the cost of long-term care.
He says that drives seniors deep into unmanageable debt. That's just what happened to 75-year-old Suzanne Stone of Red Hook, New York. She's retired and on the brink of filing for bankruptcy. Why?
Suzanne Stone: Oh, about $10,000 for dental work which is... I'm not covered by any kind of insurance I can get.
60-year-old William Baldwin of Overland Park, Kansas has already filed for bankruptcy after he lost his job and dipped into his retirement savings trying to pay off debts.
William Baldwin: Frustrating to face bankruptcy, but the alternative is worse.
Bankruptcy law professor Robert Lawless says older Americans have a harder time keeping up with growing costs.
Robert Lawless: Incomes aren't going up and when you're 55 and over, pretty unlikely you're going to be able to increase your income.
He says that, combined with leaner pensions and health benefits, is making the golden years anything but.
In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.