Nationally, the rate of seniors who experience food insecurity -- a term for those who can't maintain a nutritious diet -- has doubled since 2001, according to the National Council on Aging.The issue is of particular concern in Colorado, which has one of the fastest-growing populations of people 65 and older. By 2030, that population will more than double.
Kathy Underhill, of Denver-based Hunger Free Colorado and Allyson Sawtell, of Denver Inner City Parish, spoke with with Ryan Warner about the issue. Click on the audio link above to hear the conversation.
Why elder adults come to Denver Inner City Parish
Sawtell: For many of them, it is their main meal of the day. Sometimes they will load up, on Saturdays especially, on our leftovers so that they can have dinner that night. It's really an issue of making sure they get enough food. It's a nutrition issue as well as just a general quantity issue. [...]
I think we tend to dismiss older people as well -- kind of 'Their lives are sort of winding down.' Day in and day out, I see people who are 60, 70, 80, whose lives are opening up before them because they're getting some good nutrition; they're combating social isolation.
How being hungry as an elder adult affects mobility
Underhill: There's a study out of the University of Kentucky that shows that a food insecure or hungry 64-year-old has the active daily limitation of a 78-year-old. [...]
So if we're waiting until they're in crisis or they show up in the emergency room, or get on the radar of a social worker [...] they're really going to be compromised. For me, this is a health issue, this is an economic issue in terms of cost-containment, and frankly, it's a moral issue.
What the future holds for hunger and Colorado's older population
Underhill: In Colorado, about one in every seven seniors is food insecure or hungry. This is a 23 percent increase since the last survey was done in 2000. Looking at the state demographer's information, we expect that number to continue the upward trend, unfortunately. [...]
When we talk about working poor families, it's often an issue of a bump in the road, kind of a temporary setback. [...] If you're in poverty when you're 65, imagine where you're going to be when you're 85. This isn't necessarily about getting people back to self-sufficiency, it's really a long-term issue. As a community, we have to think about that.