Food Insecurity Among Seniors

Food Insecurity Among Seniors

Homeless woman is searching for food in garbage dumpster. Woman in poverty is searching something in container.

{Read in 4 minutes} 

I’ve never been really hungry. Hungry like your stomach aches because you have not had a meal in a few days. Hungry like you open the refrigerator and there is nothing in there to make a proper meal.

We often have the opposite problem where we cook too much food, and it goes to waste. We are fortunate that we have the means to buy nutritious food, order takeout, or dine at our favorite restaurants fairly often. Many seniors however do not have enough food to eat. In fact, about 7.3 million older adults are food insecure in the U.S.

Today’s seniors face a healthcare bill of more than $130 billion every year due to medical issues from poor nutrition and hunger. Food insecurity got worse starting in 2007 as seniors lost millions of dollars in the recession. Seniors had to make trade-offs like spending less money on nutritious food in favor of things like insurance and medication. These decisions have had a long-term impact on families and communities nationwide.

Food insecurity is a term we have been hearing a lot, especially during the pandemic. Food insecurity includes both not having access to healthy foods necessary to help sustain your life as well as eating large amounts of food that are not up to nutritional and dietary standards. The reasons for food insecurity among seniors are familiar:

•Demographics like race, class, education, and age between 50-65 due to lack of access to programs like Medicare which offset medical expenses.

•Living in a food desert, primarily in states in the South or the West.

•Living alone, or with grandchildren for whom they may not have custody and therefore cannot add them to benefits like SNAP.

•Having depression or dementia.

•Being disabled.

So how does food insecurity contribute to $130 billion annually in medical costs? Impacts of food insecurity include depression, congestive heart failure, prolonged stress which causes heart issues, high blood pressure, gum disease, asthma, and having diabetes.

Food insecure seniors are 65% more likely to be diabetic but are also less likely to be able to afford a diet that supports diabetes. They are more likely to report at least one ADL (Activities of Daily Living) limitation which is largely fueled by being unable to physically get to the store to purchase food.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

Fortunately, yes. There are organizations and programs focused on combating senior food insecurity. The largest one is SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and undernutrition. 24% of all SNAP households include an adult over 60 years old. However, only 48% of eligible older adults participate in SNAP due to barriers like mobility, technology use, and stigma.

SNAP can have a strong impact on senior food insecurity, reducing it by 18% as shown in a nationwide study. We need to increase access to and strengthen SNAP and other programs to further their role in improving food security, health, and the well-being of senior citizens. 

SilverSource provides a safety net to older residents in need, ensuring they keep a roof over their heads, with the heat and lights on, food on the table, and the medical care they need. Older adults struggle each day to make ends meet in this, the fifth most expensive area of the country. Our programs provide financial assistance and services to meet the urgent needs of “at-risk” elderly residents.

For more information, please visit our website SilverSource.org or call 203-324-6584 to speak to a member of our professional staff.

Founded in 1908, SilverSource is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides information, financial support, and other services that positively improve the quality of life for people over age 60 while serving as a resource center and referral source for older adults and their families in lower Fairfield County.

Meleisa Holek
Program Manager
MHolek@silversource.org
203.324.6584

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