President Bush is urging U.S. congressional leaders to speedily approve a new $150 billion stimulus package aimed at boosting the country's sluggish economy and helping middle to low income Americans. One group of Americans paying keen attention to the economy is the elderly. VOA's Chris Simkins visited some senior citizens in Washington to see how they are coping with the changing times.

Ssenior citizens are worried about the health of the nation's economy and how the downturn affects their lives. Seventy-seven-year-old Mary Ann Hutton remembers The Great Depression during the 1930s. It was a decade of high unemployment, widespread poverty and a weak stock market. The retired school teacher says she will make it through this current economic slowdown, but is forced to make changes in her lifestyle.

"One of the things I have done is that I now live in an efficiency apartment. I do not have cable television, I still have a car, which I do not use a whole lot. I also managed to decrease the cost of the insurance I have on the car and all of those things save money," Hutton said. 

A recent study by the retired persons' advocacy group AARP [formerly American Association of Retired Persons] says that by 2030 the number of older Americans will more than double to 71.5 million, with one in five people 65 or older. The study found the greatest challenge facing seniors in a economic slowdown is being able to afford rising health and long-term care costs, while maintaining adequate living expenses.

Frank Short from Tampa, Florida is a retired building manager. He has seen some of his retirement income shrink because of losses on the stock market.

Short says, with a recession looming and a real estate slowdown in progress, he is considering making changes to his investment portfolio. "Well, I have considered perhaps withdrawing some money from the stock market and putting it into some other sort of investment which would guarantee more income but I have not tried that so far."

Eighty-year-old Caroline Boston is a retired secretary from Washington. She lives on a fixed income of $1,400 a month and has $1,100 in expenses. She can afford a small studio apartment and pay her medical bills, but she says there is not much money left over. "Before I had retired I had saved a little money to indulge myself during my retirement years and sort of supplement my income. But inflation has eaten that up. I used to go to a movie twice a month, I hardly go a half a dozen times a year now. I love to eat out, I love to dine out but I cannot do that now."

Caroline Boston, like many older Americans, is most concerned about how a prolonged economic slowdown will affect her children and future generations. She and her friends hope an economic stimulus package will ease financial hardships for many, while putting the nation's economy back on a path towards growth and prosperity.