Stories

Seniors are increasingly going hungry

Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were "food insecure" in 2017, according to a study by Feeding America. This translates to 5.5 million seniors — a number that has more than doubled since 2001, Time reports with Kaiser Health News.

The state of play: The number of hungry seniors has risen along with our awareness of the social determinants of health. While keeping people fed is important, it's also cheaper than caring for them down the line when they're sick — which is often what happens to people who don't have the food they need to live a healthy life.

Details: Hunger among seniors is the worst in the South and the Southwest, Time and KHN report. It's also worse among black and Latino seniors than among whites.

  • And while children's hunger can be addressed in schools, "the plight of hungry older Americans is shrouded by isolation and a generation’s pride," KHN's Laura Ungar and Trudy Lieberman write.

The outlook: As America gets grayer, the number of seniors receiving home-delivered meals through a federal program has dropped.

  • The program needs to be reauthorized by Congress this fall, but it's unclear whether its funding will get a substantial boost.

The bottom line: "Even if it rarely kills directly, hunger can complicate illness and kill slowly," Ungar and Lieberman write.

Go deeper: The looming crisis in long-term care