Food Insecurity Has Major Impacts on Older Adults
According to the Missouri Foundation for Health, food insecurity more than doubled between 2001 and 2011. With individuals living longer than ever before, those who had low income had to make choices between eating and medications. The Area Agencies on Aging also concur that older adults often have to make difficult choices between eating, medications, healthcare and incontinent supplies. Those who were low income all their lives suffer the most during their later years. Women also are more likely to experience food insecurity as well as blacks and hispanics. Sometimes, although seniors had enough money, they lacked transportation, had health problems and a lack of physical mobility which prevented them from having access to a good food supply.
This can result in seniors having a lower nutritional intake. In addition, many seniors are eating alone and may no longer be cooking so they piecemeal their eating and end up not eating enough to provide the nutrients they need to stay healthy. The result? Food insecure older adults face higher depression (60% more likely); are most likely to experience asthma (52%); heart attack (53% more likely) and congestive heart failure (40%). Also, seniors who are food insecure are 22 % more likely to be unable to perform activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating which results in earlier nursing home placement.
If they are a disabled older adult, they are even more likely to be food insecure because of the high costs of care and healthcare associated with being disabled. Many times someone in the family stays out of the workforce in order to care for them increasing the economic impact. Food insecurity affects one third of households with an adult who is out of the workforce due to disability. A quarter of households with someone disabled and someone who is working still suffer from food insecurity.
Veterans also feel the impact of food insecurity, especially those who served during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. They have double the national average rates of food insecurity.
Programs to help address this problem include Food Stamps through SNAP, Meals on Wheels, and local food pantries. Many faith based programs serve meals as well like St. Patrick’s, Sunshine Missions and more. A senior who is living at home alone may need someone to help them with grocery shopping, meal preparation, socialization with family and friends and maintaining their faith. Some grocery stores and drug stores will deliver for a small fee. Many drugs can be delivered by mail order. This is helpful for older adults who are homebound. A senior with someone who comes in on a regular basis is more likely to get their needs met because caregivers will recognize what they need to maintain a quality of life and see that they get it. They advocate on behalf of the senior to let the family know what they are needing.
***This article based on the Health Equity Series: Food Insecurity – December 2015 by the Missouri Foundation for Health.