Hunger Among Se­niors a Grow­ing Cri­sis

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Wash­ing­ton, DC

Morethan 5 mil­lion Amer­i­can se­niors face the threat of hunger and 1 mil­lion a year go hun­gry, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased to­day by Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) at a hear­ing of a Se­nate panel he chairs.

Poor nu­tri­tion can cause chronic dis­eases that re­quire costly hos­pi­tal or nurs­ing home care, ac­cord­ing to the re­port re­leased at a meet­ing of the Se­nate Sub­com­mit­tee on Pri­mary Health and Aging.

“In­vest­ing in se­nior nu­tri­tion and in well-de­signed se­nior pro­grams in gen­eral saves money for the gov­ern­ment be­cause when we do that we keep peo­ple out of emer­gency rooms, nurs­ing homes and the hos­pi­tal. The re­sult is sub­stan­tial sav­ings for gov­ern­ment pro­grams such as Medi­care and Med­i­caid,” said San­ders, the sub­com­mit­tee chair­man.

The av­er­age cost of a meal de­liv­ered to a se­nior’s home is about $5. A one-day hos­pi­tal stay typ­i­cally costs about $1,800. The cost of a year in a nurs­ing home is $77,000. Clearly, an up-front in­vest­ment in pro­grams like Meals On Wheels and com­mu­nity meals at se­nior cen­ters is a more com­mon-sense ap­proach to our bud­get cri­sis, San­ders said.

Since the re­ces­sion be­gan in 2008, agen­cies on aging across the coun­try have ex­pe­ri­enced in­creased de­mand for meals pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to a Gov­ern­ment Accountability Of­fice study cited in the re­port. “As gaso­line, home heat­ing fuel and food prices con­tinue to rise, we see many of the se­niors we work with be­ing forced to choose be­tween pay­ing for food, fuel, rent or pre­scrip­tion medicines,” Ken Gor­don, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the North­east­ern Ver­mont Area Agency on Aging, told the sub­com­mit­tee.

Half of all dis­eases af­fect­ing older Amer­i­cans are di­rectly con­nected to in­ad­e­quate nu­tri­tion. “For older Amer­i­cans es­pe­cially, hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion can com­pletely undo any in­vest­ments or ad­vances we might make in bet­ter ac­cess to health care,” ac­cord­ing to Dr. Mark Lachs of Cor­nell Univer­sity.

“I have seen it over and over again—eas­ily treat­able ill­nesses that could have been quickly and in­ex­pen­sively han­dled at home, in­stead evolved into costly episodes of dis­abil­ity that at best led to costly hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and at worst to in­def­i­nite nurs­ing home res­i­dence,” he added. “Who pays for that care? We all do.”

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