Hunger, Health and Senior Citizens: Why You Should Care
Hunger affects people of all ages in America, and the startling statistics about hunger and senior citizens is often overlooked. Senior citizens—those over the age of 60—are particularly at risk for food insecurity, and the numbers demand our attention and action.
Since 2001, the number of seniors who struggle with hunger has more than doubled. Today, there are already over 5 million seniors in the United States who don’t have access to adequate food. As the senior population continues to grow, more and more elderly individuals will face food insecurity.
Low Income and Senior Nutrition
Older individuals are especially vulnerable to hunger. Nationwide, 10% of seniors live in poverty, and many must pay for costly medical expenses that force them deeper into the cycle of poverty and leave them unable to afford the healthy, nutritious food that they deserve. In Wisconsin alone, more than 300,000 senior citizens live in poverty or near the poverty level.
On the other head, seniors that do have enough money to buy the food they need may instead struggle with accessibility issues. Many elderly individuals face mobility barriers and cannot transport themselves to grocery stores, while others struggle to prepare food because of their physical limitations or disabilities.
Cycle of Hunger and Poor Health in Seniors
Food insecurity and poor nutrition leads to lower overall health and increased risk of certain conditions. In Wisconsin, more than 120,000 of the elderly are at-risk for food insecurity.
Studies have found that food-insecure seniors have greater chances of health issues like depression, heart attacks, asthma, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure. With increasing health problems come increasing health expenses, forcing the elderly to choose between food and medical care when, in reality, they need both in order to lead a healthy life.
How Second Harvest Helps Seniors
At Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, we work to fight hunger and ensure there is food for everyone in the community who needs it.
On a national level, 60% of senior citizens who are eligible for the federal nutrition assistance program do not participate in it, which means that they are not getting the food they need. In addition to emergency food, we promote government food assistance programs to assist connecting seniors to the food they need.
Additionally, Second Harvest works by distributing food and increasing awareness of the hunger issues faced by local communities in Wisconsin.