Senior Hunger Surges As Boomers Swell The Ranks Of The Nation's Elderly
Senior hunger poised to soar as Boomers surge past 65. Photo credit: © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP
© 2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LPThe massive Baby Boomer generation which brought America the happiness of rock & roll and the Ford Mustang en masse is poised to trigger a surge in a scourge:
The number of Americans turning 65 each day has doubled since 2000.
At the same time, seniors afflicted with very low food security has soared nearly 250 percent.
If food insecurity is not addressed, the number of seniors facing hunger will soar to eight million by 2050 the Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks, warned in a new study.
Already half of older Americans are malnourished or at risk of being malnourished, the Senate Aging Committee was told at a recent hearing.
Both the Republican chair and the lead Democrat on Senate Aging, Maine's Susan Collins and Pennsylvania's Bob Casey have warned funding for food programs under the Older Americans Act need to be increased to meet the increase in demand.
The Committee recently was presented with stark evidence by a Department of Health and Human Services Official that hunger and chronic health problems for the elderly go hand in hand including more frequent and long hospitalizations.
Two years ago, 95 percent in Older American Act nutrition programs had multiple chronic conditions.
Nearly half of congregate OAA meals programs and nearly two thirds of home-delivered participants have six or more.
Over 21 percent of congregate and 40 percent of home-delivered participants take more than six.
In some cases, taking food with drugs increases the effectiveness of the medications.
The stage has been set for greater elderly hunger not only by the greater number of people past 65 with the Boomers, but also how they have differed from past generations as they have grown older.
Family as a food safety net isn’t as strong as it once was because the invention and popularization of birth control pills during the Boomer’s era has meant fewer children and because like no generation in the past, a significant number of Boomer women have chosen to remain single and make a living on their own, says the namesake star of the PBS series “America’s Generations With Chuck Underwood.
Underwood points to something else that has shut the door for many Boomers to use their families as food pantries.
“Boomers are the divorce generation. And by taking the divorce rate over the moon, some Boomers remain alienated from their own children,” said the generational strategist.
The danger of a senior hunger surge from the move of the Pepsi Generation into retirement is also being exacerbated by dramatically rising health care costs and the perpetual underfunding of programs like Meals on Wheels, asserts Case Western University aging expert Sharona Hoffman
One of the tragedies of senior hunger in America is a Darwinian effect may be taking hold.
“Survival of the fittest” could be a reason that hunger is less for the old-old than the young old, an author of the Feeding America study speculates.
It could be some of the sixty-somethings who have suffered from the health deterioration of hunger die before they get to their 70s, 80s and beyond.
Today’s growing senior hunger was set in motion in the 1940s and 1950s of the returning World War II veterans started families which gave birth to the Boomer generation.
But trends in science and society have made the surge in the lack of food for many seniors more intense as medicine has increased life expectancies and as have the number of men and women living independently without companions to aid their availability to nourishment, said Ellen Teller, director of government affairs for the Food Research & Action Center.
Teller said their ignorance is also at play: many seniors don’t think they are eligible for food stamps when they are.
There is also a feeling among some that by not accepting food stamps they will be feeding others.
“I hear from so many seniors other people need them more than me. But they need to think of food stamps for what they are: an entitlement like Social Security,” Teller said.
Ted Knutson is one of the most experienced financial regulatory reporters in Washington. For years, he has covered the SEC, CFTC, the bank regulators and the key Congressional committees.
Jeff Sodoma, MPA, Esq. is a lawyer based in Virginia Beach, Virginia
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