at the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota, Florida, talking about inflation really hits home.
At a card table there, CNN met with a group of seniors, all on fixed incomes, who talked about the strain of rising prices 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 short the evening’s socializing, which has been difficult as a single 79-year-old.
“Every day, I stay home more,” he said. “You think twice about the big night… Maybe I’ll take an extra week or two between haircuts.”
Ann Smith, 82, cut back on her favorite “simple pleasure” – drinking soda.
“I used to enjoy a coke or two a day,” he said. “Now I do one a day, maybe one every other day.”
Seniors on fixed incomes have been hit particularly hard by inflation, with September prices up 8.2% from a year ago. Price increases 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 went up $350 this year, to about $3,100 a month. And with other bills going up, like his utilities, he’s thrown his budget into chaos.
“The cost of living is not working well for us right now. It’s hard,” Johnson said. “I never had to worry about how we were going to eat, but these days, we only do light meals, sandwiches.”
They already have some boxes full, expecting another rent increase when the lease is up early next year.
Johnson, a retired college counselor, and her husband, a retired engineer and professor, moved from Michigan to Florida three years ago, bringing their sister and niece with them.
The family would like to buy a home, but rising prices and a hot housing market make it more difficult. Johnson says they may have to downsize.
“We’re middle-income, but we’re less busy than when we were working full-time,” Johnson said. “We have worked hard. And we have been honest. So why does it go the other way around?’
Next year, Social Security recipients will receive an 8.7% annual cost-of-living adjustment, the largest increase since 1981.
But for now, many seniors feel little peace of mind.
Barbara Smith, 70, she is a caregiver and also volunteers at the Trinity Cafe in Tampa, a restaurant that offers free meals. But he said he’s come to rely on the take-home meal he gets after his shift, and it’s often the only meal he eats all day.
“Then I don’t have to go shopping because I don’t have the money to do that,” Smith said.
As he faces price hikes for food, gas and personal items, he has stopped buying jigsaw puzzles, his favorite pastime. The strain of inflation can be isolating, he said.
“If it wasn’t for volunteering, I’d probably be crazy by now,” he said.