Too many seniors face challenges that get in the way of aging well. One of those challenges is not getting adequate nutrition, and, in some cases, having to choose between food and medicine.
Last month, Alex Ashbrook, director of special projects at FRAC, and Erin Kee, senior program manager at the National Council on Aging (NCOA), teamed up to give a presentation, “Screening & Intervening to Address Food Insecurity Among Seniors” at a conference hosted by the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) and NCOA.
The conference, held this year in Charleston, South Carolina, drew more than 1,000 senior service providers, advocates, and researchers who are committed to supporting the nation’s growing population of seniors. The conference theme, “Building Momentum: The Future of Aging Well,” provided a perfect backdrop for the session, which focused on the role the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays in the health and well-being of seniors struggling against hunger.
More than 25 million Americans age 60 and over are economically insecure and struggle with rising housing and health care bills, lack of access to transportation, diminished savings, and limited job security. It is not all that surprising that 1 in 10 households with a senior struggle with food insecurity.
SNAP is a lifeline for many of these seniors. Among all SNAP households, 22 percent have at least one member who is 60 years or older.
Yet too many seniors are still missing out on the many benefits of SNAP. Less than half (42 percent) of eligible seniors participate in this critical and proven program.
FRAC shared with session attendees one key strategy for getting more seniors connected to SNAP: engage health care providers to be part of the solution. Last year, FRAC and AARP Foundation launched a free, one-hour online course to help health care providers better understand the multiple harms that food-insecure seniors may face, ways to screen older patients for food insecurity, and how to refer patients to SNAP, if needed.
By working with partners on the front lines of health care, we can make sure that every eligible senior, in every corner of the country, has access to SNAP so they may improve their nutrition and health and maintain their independence.
For more information on the course, SNAP, and senior hunger, visit FRAC.org.