Elderly Hunger Rose During Pandemic Crisis

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2021 | Other

Seniors who suffer from hunger are often overlooked, sometimes even by family. If the older adult is living alone and struggling due to mobility or transportation, it may be easy for them to hide the problem, or for family and caregivers, who are not living with the senior, to miss the problem.
This issue has become even more prevalent during the COVID-19 crisis, as seniors continue to be the most vulnerable population to the virus. Faced with an increased danger in interacting with the world and strangers, many older adults have been confined to their homes. Meal delivery was not always possible as apps and services became overwhelmed by demand.
Even now, as vaccine adoption continues to rise and seniors may be more able to access transportation options, delivery services, or even just family coming to help, elderly hunger is an ongoing issue. Due to the potential for feelings of shame or embarrassment in admitting difficulties, the senior may not make their caregivers or family aware of the problem.
An excellent article by NBC News from January 2021 explored this issue in depth. Food banks in New York City reported a dramatic increase from 1 in 10 older adults experiencing food insecurity to 1 in 5. Nationwide, the number of older adults reporting food insecurity was 5.8 million prior to the pandemic. That number almost certainly grew, and rapidly, as the risk to older adults dramatically increased and shutdowns came with, at times, little warning to prepare.
Closer to home, Maryland Food Bank reported that they needed to double the amount of food distributed in order to fulfill the need. In total, the organization distributed 16 million meals across the state between March and June 2020 and anticipated delivering a total of 43 million meals by the end of December 2020. Granted, these numbers include more than just seniors – but that is an enormous need just in our state due to the insecurity created by the pandemic.
Even in Montgomery County, one of the most affluent counties in the nation, food insecurity increased at a sudden and rapid pace last year. NPR ran a story in September 2020 in which they reported Feeding America projected Montgomery County’s food insecurity would grow from 8% to 13% in 2020.
So what can we do? Here are a couple of suggestions that may help:
• Check in. If you have an older family member, especially one who lives alone, check in on them. If you’re able and it’s safe to do so, visit in person. Observe and ask how they’re doing and if they’ve been able to get the food they want or need. You can do the same if you have an elderly neighbor who you know may be having difficulties.
• Offer to bring a meal over. If you think they may be hungry and they aren’t willing to admit it, offer to bring a meal, either take-out or something home-cooked. This allows them to accept the food as a gift.
• Talk to your loved one’s caregiver. If you’re very concerned about your loved one’s health or ability to safely and consistently access food, talk to their caregiver. This may be a home aide, a live-in relative, or the person who holds power of attorney. Raise the issue with them and discuss options, which may include hiring a food delivery service on a more consistent basis, or looking into charitable food options and food banks.