May 01, 2017

Older Americans Month 2017: This Is Senior Hunger

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“Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week.” – Maggie Kuhn, Founder of ‘Grey Panthers’ Senior Advocates

Will you join us in voicing your outrage about senior hunger this month?

In April 1963, President John F. Kennedy met with members of the National Council of Senior Citizens to discuss the 30% of seniors living in poverty. JFK found the lack of programs to meet their basic needs so troubling that he declared the following month of May “Senior Citizens Month” (later changed to “Older Americans Month” by President Carter), encouraging the nation to pay tribute to older Americans in any way they could. With an increased focus on older adults, Congress passed the first Older Americans Act in 1965, establishing the U.S. Administration on Aging to help address the gap in services.

And yet here we are, 54 years later, still “celebrating” Older Americans Month by trying to raise awareness of the millions of seniors still living in poverty. Now, I don’t want to sound too cynical here, because let’s face it, moving the percentage of seniors in poverty from 30% to 10% is significant! So many wonderful programs have come out of OAA’s creation, such as home delivered meals, in-home support services, transportation, legal services, and elder abuse prevention. Who knows how many more seniors would be struggling today had advocates not organized that meeting with the President in 1963? But 1 in 7 seniors still struggle with food insecurity. Why are there still so many seniors living in poverty, and what more can we do? 

And so this month we ask, “What is Senior Hunger?” For too many years, older adults have been left out of the conversations around poverty and food insecurity. Recently, the AARP Foundation named senior poverty “America’s Best Kept Secret.” The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger reports that 8.8% of seniors face the risk of hunger. This translates to almost 5.7 million seniors who wonder where their next meal will come from. This Is Senior Hunger. 

At MAZON, we are dedicated to listening to and uplifting the experiences of underserved populations within the anti-hunger field, and in response, created our Senior Hunger Initiative in 2013. Along with federal and state level policy work, MAZON has created and implemented successful programming to help connect hungry seniors across 23 states to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

As we prepare to announce our newest senior initiative, we invite you to participate in Older Americans Month with us. We’ll be focusing on different themes of senior hunger and hope you’ll consider raising your voice this month through advocacy actions, facebook posts, and MAZON-led tweet chats. It’s time to raise our voices to show that we will not allow senior hunger to remain a secret any longer.

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