Mike Bennigson would like to correct - at a minimum - whoever calls retirement the "Golden Years."
The retired Coeur d'Alene man has had meals delivered to his home through the Lake City Center for about a year to help him make ends meet and as a result of hip surgery
"It's a little disheartening when you work all of your life, and Social Security doesn't go far," he said. "It's tough."
It's going to get even tougher with the looming federal cuts aimed at trimming the national debt.
The cuts, known as sequester, represent a little more than 2 percent of the federal budget and equate to $85 billion for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year. They will impact local agencies such as the Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho, which passes on federal funds to assist area senior centers.
Pearl Bouchard, the Area Agency on Aging's local director, said she has been told by those at her agency on the national level to prepare for a 5 percent cut. The cuts will affect senior meals programs - both home deliveries and at the centers - and services such as in-home care.
Bouchard said there's uncertainty about the cuts, but she's hearing they would be retroactive to October 2012 when the fiscal year started and be permanent. Nearly halfway into the fiscal year already, that will make budgeting difficult, she said.
"It's a double whammy," she said.
Bouchard estimates the cuts will be a $47,000 hit to the 12 North Idaho senior centers the agency serves, including $16,000 to the meals programs. She estimates that equates to 5,000 less senior meals served in the Panhandle per year.
Bouchard estimates the agency will lose 770 hours of caregiving service with the cuts.
Bouchard said the cuts themselves are only part of the picture, considering there are waiting lists of 86 seniors who are seeking homemaker assistance, nine in need of caregivers and 82 social workers.
"Those waiting lists will most definitely go up," she said. "It's obvious that we have a demand for service that we already can't meet."
Bouchard and Rick Currie, Lake City Center director, said the cuts will have a ripple effect.
Their agencies' programs, whether providing seniors nutritious meals or in-home care, are aimed at keeping seniors healthy and out of nursing homes longer.
"Seniors tend to snack a lot because fixing a meal for just one or two is a pain," Currie said. "If the meals are reduced, more snacking is inevitable and that leads to medical problems."
Currie said the center has been operating on reserve funds for several years and the cuts will further deplete those funds. He said the quantity, but not the quality, of the meals will be reduced.
Currie said he expects the senior center board to make a decision on how the cuts will be implemented in two to three months.
For seniors such as Bennigson, the cuts will be tough to swallow, especially when there's already an income shortfall.
"The income just doesn't cover the needs," he said. "It doesn't stretch."