Last year AARP Foundation issued a report entitled, Food Insecurity among Older Adults. We found that nearly nine million Americans who are 50+ are at risk of hunger. Yet the depth of senior hunger in America is not widely understood.
Let me suggest a few reasons.
First, this is a problem often hiding right in front of us. Older adults who are hungry don’t walk around with a big red H on their shirts. Like many of us would be in that situation, they are too embarrassed to ask for help.
Second, many people underestimate the day-to-day struggles of those who are 65+, their struggles to make ends meet and have a decent quality of life. Yet the fact is the average annual Social Security benefit is just over $1200 a month.
Third, for all the attention on the severe economic downturn that hit our country, it’s not always recognized how tough conditions have been for older workers.
The problem of senior hunger in America has deepened as the status of older adults in the job market has worsened. The unemployment rate for Americans 50+ has doubled in just the past four years. People 50 and older lost their jobs more frequently than younger workers and have stayed unemployed longer.
Our report provided the most intensive focus to date on hunger among those 50-59. That is a segment of the population too young for Medicare and Social Security, for the most part too old for aid to families with young children, and often caught without health insurance. We found that in just two years, between 2007 and 2009, there was an increase of almost 40 percent in the number of Americans ages 50-59 at risk of hunger.
Widespread economic suffering has changed the face of hunger in America. It ought to change our thinking about hunger as well.