More Seniors are Relying on Food Stamps
More than 1 in 10 American seniors (65 and older) struggle with hunger every day, according to a recent report by the Food Research & Action Center and AARP Foundation. The report revealed that 10% of seniors aged 65 and older receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps.
This number will likely increase in the future as baby boomers age and face financial challenges. For example, rent has grown faster than wages over the past two years, according to Labor Department statistics. Health care premiums have increased from an average of $6,000 per year in 1999 to $18,000 in 2016, found a study from the Economic Policy Institute.
Seniors live on fixed incomes, and, as prices and the cost of living rise, they will need additional help to make ends meet. However, most seniors who qualify for SNAP benefits are not taking advantage of them. Only 42% of eligible seniors are enrolled and receiving SNAP benefits, according to Feeding America. Moreover, even those seniors who did participate in the program often missed out on the full benefit allotments for which they were qualified.
There are several reasons seniors may not be participating in SNAP. Seniors may not know they are eligible for SNAP or they may feel stigma about receiving government benefits. In some cases, the senior may face mobility or transportation barriers to applying in person.
When seniors do not get enough nutritious food, this increases their disability, decreases their resistance to infection, and extends their hospital stays. Often times, low-income seniors will skip meals in order to afford their medication.
Action can be taken at the state-wide level to assist more seniors qualify and take advantage of SNAP benefits. However, family members and friends can also help their senior loved ones by monitoring their health and helping them get qualified for government assistance programs.