Starving Seniors | The State of Senior Hunger in America


Starving Seniors | The State of Senior Hunger in America

Seniors are waiting in line to get food.

Hundreds of seniors across the United States wait in long lines each month. They are not waiting to buy tickets to a popular Broadway show nor are they waiting to buy the latest smartphone.

More and more seniors nationwide are going hungry. The rising costs of health care and prescription medication along with increases in rent and utilities make it difficult for older adults on a limited income to buy food.

In bringing awareness to the plight of starving seniors, Kaiser Health News (KHN) published a report in September that mentioned a 71-year-old Cincinnati, Ohio man who died alone in 2016. The man, who weighed 100.5 pounds, died of “starvation of undetermined etiology” and “possible hypothermia,” according to the Hamilton County Coroner’s report which KHN posted on its Twitter page.

“The State of Senior Hunger in America,” an annual report released by Feeding America, found that 5.5 million people 60 years old and over, or 7.7 percent of the senior population in the United States, were “food insecure” in 2017. The 2019 report by Feeding America, a non-profit organization with a network of over 200 food banks, was based on 2017 data.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity occurs when a household lacks money and other resources to buy food.

Feeding America’s annual report also found that the current number of food-insecure seniors has more than doubled since 2001.

At the same time, food banks have seen funding cuts and drops in donations as more people turned to local food pantries for help with feeding their families.

Congress Passes Bill to Help Seniors

In late October, Congress passed the Dignity in Aging Act of 2019, which reauthorizes the Older Americans Act (OAA), which funds state and local programs that provide food, transportation, part-time job opportunities, and basic services to help adults 60 years old and older live as independently as possible.

The bipartisan Dignity in Aging Act legislation, now pending in the Senate, calls for an increase in funding for community-based services for seniors.

The OAA serves 11 million older adults each year, but funding has not kept pace with the growth of the senior population and their needs. A February 2019 report by AARP on the OAA found that nutrition services for seniors fell by 8 percent over the past 18 years, an $80 million decline in 2019 value.

According to a 2015, Government Accountability Office (GAO) report presented by House lawmakers, 83 percent of low-income seniors facing food insecurity do not receive any meals through OAA programs.

One program partially funded by OAA is Meals on Wheels, a community-based service that delivers meals to senior groups and individual seniors who are not able to buy or prepare their own meals.

In an interview with KHN, Erika Kelly, chief advocacy and government affairs office for Meals on Wheels America, said that multiple thousands of older adults are waiting to get on the Meals on Wheels list. For example, 1,000 names are on a waiting list in Memphis. Unfortunately, while seniors are waiting, the health of many seniors is deteriorating and some have died, Kelly said.

Seniors Need Caregiving Services

Besides nutritional programs, the Dignity in Aging Act places a priority on supporting family caregivers and resources that help seniors age in place.

The GAO’s report found that older adults who have difficulties handling daily activities, like grooming, dressing, and feeding themselves, either do not receive or receive limited home-bound care services.

If seniors are to remain in their homes, older adults with chronic illnesses and mobility problems will need caregivers. Family members are usually the initial caregivers. But those who have families and jobs are torn between taking care of their own household and caring for their elderly loved one at the same time.

Without caregivers, many seniors will not be able to live independently. Fortunately, paid caregiving assistance is available for older adults, including those with limited income.

For instance, Medicaid’s Home and Community-Based Services program pays for certain in-home care for seniors. Older adults who would otherwise have to move into a nursing home can receive personal care, housekeeping services, and respite care services.

Besides Medicaid, the Veterans Administration’s Aid & Attendance pension helps veterans 65 years old and older who need help with daily activities, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating and using the restroom.

When family caregivers are not available, older adults can find affordable services through an in-home care agency, such as FCP Live-In. For over two decades, FCP Live-In’s caregivers have provided services for older adults with health and mobility problems who do not want to move into a long-term care facility.

FCP Live-In’s caregivers not only provides personal care, such as helping seniors maintain personal hygiene, but shop for groceries, prepare meals, and transport seniors to medical appointments and other activities.

The companionship and transportation in-home caregivers provide help seniors to prevent social isolation and hunger.

Meanwhile, local agencies are doing what they can to help seniors while the lines at food pantries continue to grow as older adults do their best to stave off hunger.

To learn more about FCP Live-In and its in-home care services, contact the agency today: 866-559-9492.

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