aged woman alone and sadThose who start off behind the 8-ball, so to speak, are plagued byproblems that range from lower incomes and unhealthy livingconditions to postponed or abandoned medical care, and more.(Photo:Shutterstock)

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The older you get, the more you'll feel youreconomic status—whether it's good or bad. And if it's bad, it'sgoing to get worse.

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So says a book by Boston University sociologist Deborah Carr,Golden Years? Social Inequality in Later Life, which drawson multidisciplinary research on aging. Its conclusion: As people age and become more vulnerable, any economicdisadvantages they face become more pronounced.

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A Squared Away blog post by the Center for Retirement Research atBoston College says that the problem will become more prominent asmore people age.

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The people who face disadvantages earlier in life—such as issueswith health, money, social and family relationshipsand mental well-being—“are at a big disadvantage. They have morefinancial problems, which creates stress, and they are moreisolated and die younger.”

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It's not something one can grow out of, the report says, sinceit begins at birth. Carr is quoted saying, “Advantage begetsfurther advantage, and disadvantage begets further disadvantage.”She adds that for the less fortunate, “old age can be the worst oftimes.”

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Those who have advantages, such as a college degree, a job witha good salary and health insurance that provides access to goodmedical care, build on those advantages to live a longer andhealthier life.

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And those who start off behind the 8-ball, so to speak, areplagued by problems that range from lower incomes and unhealthyliving surroundings to postponed or abandoned medical care anddetrimental habits such as smoking, drinking and subsisting on apoor diet.

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In fact, the research indicates that such social factors accountfor 60 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. Social isolation,loneliness after widowhood and a lack of resources to engage insocial interactions with family or friends all contribute toshorter lifespans.

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But what about those who do have more resources?

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According to the report, “Financially secure retirees even diebetter.” In a family with sufficient financial resources to allow arelative to take time off to be with a terminally ill patient, thatpatient was more likely to die at home instead of in aninstitution.

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But if a caregiver can't afford to take time to be with thatpatient, death is more likely to occur amid the clinical trappingsof a hospital or nursing home—despite the fact that most elderlypeople want to die at home and not among strangers.

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Says the post, “[M]oney doesn't buy happiness. But it surehelps.”

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READ MORE:

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Gulf in retirement preparedness mirrors gulf inbehaviors

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Race, ethnicity play huge role in retirementpreparedness

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5 retirement preparedness numbers foremployers

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.