Millions Of Seniors Forced To Choose Between Paying For Food And Health Care

New Study Reveals Economic Concerns of Seniors

Millions Of Seniors Forced To Choose Between Paying For Food And Health Care
January 6, 2016

The economy may be improving, but it is not improving enough to meet the needs of America's seniors. That's the inference from a recent report from Feeding America, "Baby Boomers and Beyond: Facing Hunger After Fifty."

The report analyzed and summarized data from the Hunger in America 2014 dataset. This dataset covers those who utilize America's food bank system and nutritional assistance programs. The Feeding America report focused on the challenges of those that are fifty years old and above.

Note: For purposes of this report, the term "seniors" refers to those aged sixty or above, as it is the change point in eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the threshold for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

The report paints a picture of significant need. Around 13 million adults aged fifty and above use the Feeding America network. Approximately 64% of that population plans to get food from charitable programs regularly and 81% consider their household as "food-insecure."

This level of food insecurity leads to unpleasant decisions for many seniors each year. Older adult households that use food assistance programs have to decide between food and other essentials at some point during the year.

A whopping 63% of that population has to choose between paying for food and medical care — and for the older population, medical costs are no trivial matter. The report points out that healthcare costs are around three to five times higher for those aged 65 and above as compared to younger adults. Many of the older population seeking food assistance have difficulty maintaining healthy lifestyles and thus have more ailments. 70% of households with older members reported having a member with high blood pressure, and 41% had a member with diabetes.

Decisions between food and other essentials were also cited. 60% were forced to choose between food and utility bills, 58% between food and transportation, and 49% between food and housing.

Multi-generational households in the food-assistance population are particularly hard hit, as fewer workers support more household members. Almost 20% of the older adult households receiving food assistance included a grandchild. Of those families, 77% live in poverty and 88% are considered food insecure.

How Do Multi-Generational Households Cope with Food Insecurity?

77% of the older adult households buy the cheapest food available and 38% say they dilute their food or drink supplies to make them last longer. 46% of the respondents relied on assistance from family and friends to fill the gap.

Even with their needs, households with older adults are not as likely to receive SNAP benefits or even to apply for them. Only 52% of the food assistance clients receive SNAP benefits, but 66% of the households not participating have a low enough income to qualify for the program. It could be a matter of pride with older Americans, or simply a lack of understanding of all the benefits available.

The Feeding America report emphasizes that with an aging population, it is important to strengthen the available resources for older food-insecure Americans and help them to understand and take advantage of all the benefits that are available.

As the economy improves, we hope that the need for food bank assistance will decrease across America. In the meantime, consider supporting your local food bank in whatever way you can. It's the caring thing to do — and remember that someday you could be the one needing their services.

The full report summary may be found here.

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Carla | 01.06.16 @ 20:02
How is it that we have become a country that allows its seniors to have to make this choice? It is such a shame to watch this happen. Something must change!
Steffanie | 01.06.16 @ 20:02
This is just so upsetting to me. I really wish we could take better care of our senior saints.
trish | 01.06.16 @ 20:08
This makes me angry. My mom and dad say some months it is a toss we eat or do we pay for our blood pressure meds? How have we become a nation that allows this?
Elaine | 01.06.16 @ 20:08
Sad that our seniors have to deal with these issues. Wish there was a better outlook.
Erin | 01.06.16 @ 20:08
This is one of the saddest commentaries on our society today. We need to do better for our seniors.
Bobbie | 01.06.16 @ 20:10
Glad that this is not an issue with my almost 90 MIL, and hubby and I are working hard to make sure this is not as issue we have to deal with as we get older. It's a shame that healthcare costs are so high that this is even a problem.
Crystal | 01.06.16 @ 20:11
This breaks my heart. Aging brings so many worries, Whether or not you can afford to eat should not be one. It should NEVER be one. Not in a country as wealthy as ours. We need a positive change.
Sarah | 01.06.16 @ 20:14
One of my grandma's deals with this when she gets sick. It's heartbreaking to say the least.
Rychana | 01.06.16 @ 20:15
I work in medical billing and it breaks my heart to see seniors struggle to cover the costs.
Ambar | 01.06.16 @ 20:20
Wao, that's pretty upsetting. No one should have to worry about food after working for decades.
Amanda | 01.06.16 @ 20:24
My granny is one of those people, we help out as much as we can. Birthdays and holidays it's always gift cards or money. We fill her pantry when we can. It's sad that our elderly the ones that worked so hard and long before us are treated this way and have to make these decisions.
Sara | 01.06.16 @ 20:26
That is sad that they are having to choose. I wont even get started on those who feel entitled to things while our elderly suffer. How is it that we can afford stuff going to all over the world but cannot take care of our elderly?
Alec | 01.06.16 @ 20:27
It's absolutely disgusting that this happens in our country. Good men and women who have been contributing to society for decades are going without because they don't have the benefits they should. If the government won't help with benefits, they should at least let food pantries have some sort of access to extra food specifically for seniors.
Tina | 01.06.16 @ 20:27
I have been in this position myself with a son with epilepsy. It is terrible and terrifying. And that's me with an income. Seniors deserve so much more than we give them as a culture, and our medical system is an absolute mess. In 1 year's time we were nearly bankrupt due to medical needs. And that's with insurance. I wish someone knew the answer. I don't, and nothing we are doing seems to be working.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.02.20 @ 16:07