Financial Hardship for Seniors in Florida

My first data visualization project on the present and future financial challenges facing senior households (65+) in Florida.

Timeline: 3 weeks.

Visualization Florida Seniors
Sample pages from 2019 ALICE report

“Come up with a compelling focus or narrative”. We were provided with three sources to start—two articles from The Miami Herald and The United Way's ALICE Report.

Mind mapping brain dump


Understand the data, find the story

While we were provided with sources for data and stories to help us gain a better understanding of what The ALICE report tells us about Florida, the challenge as a beginner was understanding where to start. There was an incredible amount of data and clearly numerous stories to tell; overwhelmingly so.

After reading the entire report, I latched on to two highlighted trends in the 2018 ALICE report (below) and used these as the foundation for my visualization.

The aging population

“The increase in the number of ALICE households in Florida is driven by older households, both seniors and those 45 to 64 years old. The number of senior households (65 years and older) increased from 1.9 million in 2010 to 2.4 million in 2016, a 22 percent increase” (p. 7).

“46 percent of senior households had income below the ALICE threshold” (p. 7).

Increased need for caregiving

“With the number of seniors increasing and the number of potential caregivers (aged 45 to 64) decreasing, there will be fewer people available to care of each senior” (p. 24).

“In Florida, there are currently more than 2.6 million family caregivers, whose unpaid care totals an estimated $29.7 billion. […] Nationwide, half of the caregivers reported a household income of less than $50,000 per year and said they had no choice in taking n caregiving responsibilities” (p. 25).

Florida-Seniors-Visualization-2018-Data-Examples B@1x
Florida-Seniors-Visualization-2018-Data-Examples C@1x

Dive into more data

The 2018 ALICE report provided a strong starting point for data, understanding trends, and structure for understanding the ALICE population. It also was chock full of references to other data sources. I explored data from numerous sources including but not limited to: the American Community Survey, Economic Policy Insititute, AARP, and The Pew Research Center.

Drafts, critique and visual design

I began exploring the overall structure with a series of rough explorations to see how multiple charts and maps might play out on a page. My first draft (right), I felt was a disaster, but as I continued to make connections, become clearer about the data, and incorporate feedback, the process became easier.

Based on the gravity of the information, a more subdued color palette seemed appropriate; however, as the visualization became more complete, I opted to lighten the overall feel. My goal was to make the visualization more appealing to potential readers. The darker palette felt possibly off-putting.

visualization rough draft
visualization rough draft


Start early. The learning curve was high and while three weeks seemed to be plenty of time, it went by quickly. Learning new tools, how best to encode the data, exploring different visualizations of the same data, choosing colors, typography, writing, and arranging multiple visualizations into a structure that made sense required making even the smallest progress each day.

80 percent of information design is understanding data. I believe Alberto reminded me that 80 percent of visualization is finding, exploring, understanding and verifying data.

Be critical and make the extra effort to get feedback. Spend the extra time to try and step away to review your work with a critical eye and ask questions. Share your work with people who aren’t in your field. Ask them if what you have created makes sense.

One visualization leads to other visualization ideas. Once you go deep into exploring data, it leads you to more, often surprising information about the world in which you live. It can be difficult to remain focused and not pursue new, fascinating bits of information.

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