Dire health threat facing seniors: hunger | Prime Living
Health & Wellness
Last updated 5/21/2021 at 4:33pm
Over this last year, we have heard in the news or seen for ourselves the long lines at food banks throughout our county, state, and country. Perhaps we were in those lines or know of people who were.
Hunger in the United States is a growing concern. Much of the focus has been on families and young children. Yet, there is a hidden population of people who are going hungry or are food insecure, meaning that they cannot meet their nutritional needs on a consistent basis. This group is our older population, those aged 50-59, and senior population, those aged 60 and older.
I feel that there is a thought that since most seniors receive Social Security, pensions, or income from retirement accounts, they are financially stable. For many, that is the case, but for millions it is not. According to MedicareAdvantage.com, one in six, or 8 million, seniors do not have enough food to eat. One-third of all seniors report trimming the size of their meals, skipping meals completely, or buying less nutritious foods because they did not have enough money for a proper meal.
Since COVID-19, this has only increased. As prices rise for food and other essentials, Social Security increases do not offset the increased cost. Many seniors are forced to choose between rent, food, utilities and medicine. Unlike their younger counterparts, they are not able to gain employment to supplement their income because of their advanced age.
Financial difficulties are a large cause for senior hunger, but there can be other factors as well. Physical limitations can make it difficult to get to the store or even cook. Poor dental care is also a concern. If seniors have lost teeth or have tooth pain, they may opt to eat soft food that can cause them to not meet all their nutritional needs.
When seniors do not have enough food to meet their nutritional needs, they are at greater risk of negative health outcomes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, an unhealthy weight, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, increased risk of falls, depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders are cause for concern for hungry seniors.
How can I help? That is a question that I ask myself. First, I must recognize it as a problem. Second, who in the community is addressing food insecurity. Our local food banks are great resources. Yet, for many seniors it is difficult to get to a local food bank. Perhaps ride shares or taking our senior neighbors to the food bank or even the store.
The Edmonds Food Bank has even started to deliver to those seniors who are unable to get to their food bank. This is a great resource for homebound seniors. Meals on Wheels is also a great resource. Many local senior centers also offer community meals for seniors. These lunches have shifted to sack lunches at many centers until COVID restrictions are lifted.
The Edmonds Waterfront Center, formerly the Edmonds Senior Center, is addressing food insecurity among seniors through a community café model. People of all ages can dine together with low-income seniors being able to order from a senior menu designed for them to pay what they can afford.
As our general population begins to age, and with prices on goods and services continuing to increase, senior hunger will continue to be a growing concern. If you or anyone you know is facing food insecurity, please contact me at 425-954-2523.