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Millions of Older Americans Have This Serious Hunger Problem

Millions of Older Americans Have This Serious Hunger Problem

Millions of seniors are at an increased risk for developing serious physical and mental health issues because they don’t have ready access to nutritious food, according to a recently-released report by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) and Feeding America, two food-focused non-profits aimed at investigating and ending hunger issues in America.

The analysis concluded that one out of every 12 American elders are currently facing food insecurity, defined as “limited or uncertain access to enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle.” Food insecure seniors consistently have lower levels of ten essential nutrients: vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, thiamin, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, protein, energy, phosphorous and calcium.

The consequences of not having enough healthy food are far more severe for those over 60 than they are for those in their 40s and 50s, and food insecurity increases an older adult’s risk of depression by 60 percent, heart attack by 53 percent and congestive heart failure by 40 percent, according to the report.

Inadequate access to good nutrition also makes an elder 22 percent more likely to have trouble performing activities of daily living (ADLs), which include bathing, eating, dressing, performing household chores, getting in and out of bed, etc.

Money isn’t the only issue contributing to food insecurity

Too many aging adults are being forced to choose between buying bananas and paying their bills, according to Bob Aiken, Feeding America’s CEO. “Among our client households with seniors, about 30 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care,” he says in an NFESH press release. “That’s a choice no one should have to make.”

However, while limited finances is the most common cause of food insecurity, where an elder lives is another important factor. Even if a senior has the money to pay for fresh fruits and vegetables, they may find themselves unable to achieve the proper nutritional balance, if they reside in a rural or especially poor area where grocery stores don’t stock healthy food.

A growing problem with multiple solutions

The NFESH report’s findings aren’t earth-shattering–it makes sense that seniors who can’t afford or acquire nutritional foods would experience negative health consequences, but they do spotlight a growing problem. The number of seniors who are food insecure has doubled in the last decade and, given the aging of the American population, is likely to only get larger in the future.

“Many factors contribute to seniors’ ability to age well, and food insecurity must be considered one of these variables,” say study authors, who underline the positive aspects of initiatives such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). They also discuss the benefits of home-delivery programs like Meals-on-Wheels for elders who are homebound.

Related

A Senior-Friendly Grocery Shopping List
7 Simple Ways to Put Fruits and Veggies Back into a Senior’s Diet
‘Healthy’ Foods Elders Should Never Eat
5 Intriguing Insights on Senior Well-Being
19 Free Services for Seniors and Their Caregivers
The Simple, Healthy Recipe that Will Satisfy a Senior’s Sweet Tooth

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Food, Health, Healthy Aging, News & Issues, , , ,

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor

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78 comments

+ add your own
8:23PM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

I really wish I had the means to have my Mom live with me, I worry about her all the time. I sure wish my parents were still together so she would not be alone all the time.

10:59AM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

I am with Fi T. - make sure seniors have enough nutritious food.

3:39AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Allow each basic right of survival to be fulfilled

1:40PM PDT on May 9, 2014

:(
Signed

2:57AM PDT on May 4, 2014

ty

11:34PM PDT on May 3, 2014

it is often hard for them to get out to a food bank if they don't have someone to take them.

2:36PM PDT on May 3, 2014

1 out of 12, wow.

2:35PM PDT on May 3, 2014

O.O

8:30AM PDT on May 3, 2014

Thanks.

7:11AM PDT on May 3, 2014

If your diet is largely packaged
food, you are in trouble. Fresh
fruits and veggies (even frozen)
are usually less expensive and
better for you.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Will take care of our water usage.

Watch our diet and lifestyle

thanks for sharing

I always use stale bread for croutons. Bacon fat can also be used if you make homemade bird suet. …

Quite an interesting picture of a carrot...

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