The number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000. Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse. Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54 percent compared with 125 percent for older minorities.[i]
These changing demographics will have profound impacts on the demand for social services, especially the need for adequate and culturally appropriate nutrition services. Seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population and must be considered.
Charitable Food Assistance[ii]
- Seven million elderly persons are served by Feeding America each year. 33 percent of client households have at least one member who is age 60 or over, and 76 percent of these households are food insecure - an estimated 3.9 million households.
- Among all clients served by Feeding America, 17 percent were seniors age 60 or over, while 27 percent of adult clients surveyed at charitable feeding programs were age 60 or older.
- Among all food programs in the Feeding America network, 12 percent of meal programs, such as home-delivered meal programs (or Meals on Wheels) and 7 percent of grocery programs, such as senior brown bag programs, are targeted for seniors. Three out of four (76%) client households with at least one senior report planning to use a food program in the Feeding America network on a regular basis to assist with their monthly food budget.
- Among client households with at least one senior, 47 percent report that a household member has diabetes and 77 percent report that a household member has high blood pressure. 30 percent of client households with at least one senior also report having served in the U.S. military.
- In 2013, 2.9 million (9%) households with seniors experienced food insecurity. 1.1 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.[iii]
- In 2011, 4.8 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 8 percent of all seniors.[iv]
- Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, even when controlling for other factors such as income[v]:
- 60 percent more likely to experience depression
- 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
- 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
- 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure
- The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50% when the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation reaches age 60 in 2025.[vi]
For seniors, protecting oneself from food insecurity and hunger is more difficult than for the general population. For example, a study that focused on the experience of food insecurity among the elderly population found that food insecure seniors sometimes had enough money to purchase food but did not have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations, or health problems.[vii]
- In 2013, 10 percent of seniors (4.2 million older adults age 65 and older) lived below the poverty line.[viii]
- In 2012, under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, seniors make up 13 percent of people in poverty as compared with 8 percent under the official measure.[ix]
- In 2012, under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, medical out of pocket expenses (MOOP) increase the poverty rate among seniors (8% excluding MOOP, 15% including).[x]
Federal Nutrition Assistance
- Elderly households are much less likely to receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same.[xi]
- Seniors require greater consideration towards their health and medical needs that can become compromised when there is not enough food to eat. A study which examined the health and nutritional status of seniors found that food insecure seniors had significantly lower intakes of vital nutrients in their diets when compared to their food secure counterparts. In addition, food insecure seniors were 2.33 times more likely to report fair/poor health status and had higher nutritional risk. [xii]
[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. (2012). A profile of Older Americans: 2012.
[ii] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, National Report. August 2014.
[iv] Ziliak, J.P. & Gundersen, C. (2013.) Spotlight on Food Insecurity among Senior Americans: 2011. National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH).
[v] Feeding America and National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH). (2014, March). Spotlight on Senior Health Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans.
[vi] Ziliak, J. & Gunderson, C. (2009, September). Senior Hunger in the United States: Differences across states and rural and urban areas. University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Special Reports. http://www.mowaa.org/document.doc?id=193
[vii] Wolfe WS, Frongillo EA, Valois P. (2003). Understanding the experience of food insecurity by elders suggests ways to improve its measurement. J. Nutr. 133:2762-2769, 2003.
[xi] Ziliak, J. & Gunderson, C. (2009, September). Senior Hunger in the United States: Differences across states and rural and urban areas. University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Special Reports. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
[xii] Lee JS, Frongillo, Jr. EA. (2001). Nutritional and health consequences are associated with food insecurity among U.S. elderly persons. J. Nutr. 131: 1503-1509, 2001