The Fight to End Hunger: Seniors in the U.S.Posted by Medicare Made Clear
Many of us in the United States grew up with parents who urged us to eat our dinners by bringing up “starving children” elsewhere around the globe. Talking about the issue of hunger may still evoke images of those children who live in some place far away from the U.S.
That’s why data1 from organizations such as Feeding America, one of the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charities, can be surprising.
More than 50 million Americans are food insecure. (According to the World Health Organization, food insecurity means that people do not have physical and economic access to food that meets their dietary needs and their preferences.)
One in six Americans is at risk of hunger.
Nearly 3 million elderly persons are served by Feeding America alone each year.
In 2010, 8.7% of seniors (3.6 million older adults age 65 and older) lived below the poverty line.
30% of Feeding America households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care. 35% had to choose between food and paying for heat/utilities.
The number of older adults is projected to go up by 36% over the next decade. By 2030 there will be 72.1 million older adults, almost twice as many as in 2008.
The number of food-insecure seniors is projected to go up by 50% when the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation reaches age 60 in 2025.
Hunger and Seniors
Food insecurity can mean issues for seniors that differ from those of others. For example, some seniors may have enough money to buy food, but can’t go food shopping due to transportation limitations or health problems. So physical access can present challenges along with financial access. Not getting enough nutritious food can also weaken the health of seniors in more serious ways than it does for younger people.
Getting (and Giving) Help
If you’re having trouble paying for food that meets your nutritional needs, there are programs designed to help. You can check to see whether you qualify for food assistance programs. One of these is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provided through the U.S. government. And if you’re finding yourself needing to choose between paying for your medical costs and other needs, like food, you may qualify for programs that help pay the costs of Medicare.
If you’re a caregiver for a senior, then you know how important good nutrition is to your loved one. As with access to food, seniors can have a harder time than younger people accessing assistance programs like SNAP. So caregivers are critical to helping get seniors connected to help. For information on how to get extra help for a family member who may need it, see the recent Medicare Made Clear blog post Caregiver Corner: Extra Support for You and Your Loved Ones.
If you’d like to help, the holiday season is a great time to pitch in. There are probably many organizations working to fight hunger in your community which would welcome your time and talents. Check the Do Good Live Well website to find volunteer opportunities near you. Organizations like Feeding America would also welcome any financial donations you’d care to make.
1“Senior Hunger,” Feeding America, 2012 (http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts/senior-hunger.aspx).
For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
The family of UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Solutions plans are insured or covered by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliates, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—Information on a federal food-assistance program
Feeding America—A leading American charity fighting to end hunger
Financial Help with Medicare Costs—MedicareMadeClear.com’s overview of programs that help cover medical costs
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