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Imagine your parents or grandparents standing in the supermarket and trying to make a decision: do  they buy groceries for the week, or pay for a prescription medication? It's an impossible choice—whichever option they choose, their health and well-being will suffer.

And yet, millions of seniors are faced with this choice on a regular basis. 63% of seniors who visit food banks reported not being able to afford both food and medical care. In 2019, a total of 5.2 million seniors (or 7.1% of the 60+ population) dealt with hunger, and some estimates predict that that number will increase in the coming years.

What Causes Hunger Among Senior Citizens?

There are a variety of factors at play when it comes to the issue of food access for seniors. And while each individual's situation is different, the following circumstances are frequently tied to food insecurity and hunger among senior citizens:

  • Disability or Lack of Mobility. Seniors who are no longer able to move comfortably, or who live with chronic pain, may not be able to get to the store, carry groceries or cook for themselves.
  • Many seniors find themselves unable to drive as they age and may not have access to public transportation. As a result, they may become effectively stranded at home, unable to go to the grocery store to buy food.
  • Financial Insecurity. Some older folks simply can't afford healthy food, and as a result may forgo meals or resort to inexpensive fast food with low nutritional value. Chronic illness and expensive medications may further limit their financial resources.

For seniors who are affected by food insecurity or hunger, the stakes are high. Lack of access to nutritional foods in the elderly can lead to serious consequences, such as malnutrition. In turn, malnutrition can cause a host of health problems, including weakened immune function and depression.

Spectrum Community Services is working to combat senior hunger through our Meals on Wheels and Senior Meals programs. We are committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Visit our website for more information on our senior meals program or to download a copy of our utility assistance application.