Older Americans are struggling to afford food at an alarming rate — and the situation is expected to get worse. Why America’s seniors are being left behind

Older Americans are struggling to afford food at an alarming rate — and the situation is expected to get worse. Why America’s seniors are being left behind

At a time when retirees should be enjoying leisure and travel, they are instead struggling to put food on the table.

Food insecurity has increased significantly over the past 20 years for American families with adults over 60, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA).

Researchers found that one in eight families with seniors (12.5 percent) struggled with food insecurity between 1999 and 2003. However, that figure now rises to one in four families (23.1 %) between 2015 and 2019.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a household’s socioeconomic situation that leads to “limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

The elderly cannot take a break at the moment. Their Social Security contributions are not keeping up with inflation and may even be reduced over the next decade.

Why does this happen?

One of the researchers, Cindy Leung, explains in an interview with the Washington Times why older people face increased food insecurity. Even though food prices are skyrocketing for everyone right now, the assistant professor of public health nutrition at Harvard says it’s a particularly difficult time for low-income seniors, many of whom often have to pay additional medical costs.

The problem, according to the study, affects “all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic subgroups.” Although levels of food insecurity are significantly higher among Black and Hispanic families, chronic food insecurity for white families increased to 4.5% between 2015 and 2019 (from 0.8%).

Food inflation may not have increased from January to February this year, but it was up 2.2% from February 2023, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For a senior whose Social Security check cost-of-living adjustment increased only 3.2% this year, that doesn’t amount to much help when she has to pay not only for food, but also for housing and medical necessities.

Many older people live on Social Security alone. In 2020, about half of the homeless population is 50 and older – a significant increase since the early 1990s, when only 11% of homeless people were that age, according to a study published in the journal Generations. American Society on Aging.

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It is expected to get worse

In 2021, research from the American Society on Aging indicates that 5.5 million older adults were food insecure. By 2050, this figure is estimated to reach more than 7 million older people.

However, researchers are proposing solutions that could prevent this from happening. They believe the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the best way to create a more food secure senior population.

SNAP provides a monthly benefit to low-income families and individuals. The most recent figures from the USDA indicate that 5.3 million households with seniors use SNAP. But AARP has conducted research suggesting that there are many more eligible seniors who are not taking advantage of this benefit.

The researchers add that SNAP could be improved, particularly in the amount of money it provides to its beneficiaries each month. There was a pandemic increase in SNAP benefits, but it ended in March 2023. SNAP benefits were reduced from $95 to $250 per month, according to CBS News.

Researchers say this pandemic surge is a good experiment to see how SNAP helps alleviate food insecurity. CBS reports that the pandemic SNAP increase lifted 4.2 million Americans out of poverty. Maybe it can help older people too.

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This article provides information only and should not be considered advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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