Less money for food and increasingly poor health are a wicked combination of factors that add up to food insecurity for seniors. Expect the problem to grow, says a report from Bread for the World released in May 2015. “As more baby boomers enter their 60s, the number of food-insecure Americans will rise.”
Food insecurity diminishes the nutrition intake of older adults by limiting the food options available to them. Unfortunately, chronic heart disease and depression are just two of the health conditions that a lack of nutrition can exacerbate. Moreover, the problem is more pronounced in populations also facing poverty and racial inequality.
Healthy habits, such as eating nutritious food, help lessen the risk of developing chronic conditions. Nutrition plays a vital role in promoting personal health in the long term. Individuals following a healthy diet are less likely to develop chronic conditions as they age.
Statistics in the report say:
• The number of older Americans experiencing food insecurity increased by 45 percent from 2001 until 2013. In 2012, 9.3. million older Americans faced the threat of hunger, representing 15.3% of all seniors.
• Americans aged 60 to 69—baby boomers recently coming into retirement age—are the most food insecure.
Programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) allow the older population not only to eat, but also to eat healthier. However, 5.2 million older Americans who are otherwise eligible to receive SNAP benefits do not participate in the program, and this number is expected to increase as more of the adult population ages.
Low participation by older Americans in SNAP is attributed to feelings of stigma or of guilt, as well as to confusing application processes.