May 08, 2017

Why Good Nutrition is Essential for Seniors

By Emily Dingmann
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This Older Americans Month, raise your voice with us to show that we will not allow senior hunger to remain a secret any longer!

As a Nutritionist, I feel quite strongly that good nutrition is important for everyone. 

From our first days to our last, good nutrition and good health make it possible to live a fully-functioning life; and that simple fact remains true no matter your age, your ethnicity, or your socioeconomic status.

Even so, some populations are at a higher risk for nutrition-related diseases. One of those populations is low-income seniors.

Studies have shown that food-insecure seniors consume fewer calories and, therefore, fewer of the key nutrients they need. Deficiencies in nutrients like iron and protein, which are especially important for seniors, are more prevalent in food-insecure seniors1 than in seniors who do not struggle with hunger.

Deficiencies like these, combined with the overall poor diet of food-insecure seniors, greatly impacts their health outcomes. The stats are outrageous. Food-insecure seniors are1:

  • 53% more likely to report a heart attack
  • 52% more likely to develop asthma
  • 40% more likely to experience congestive heart failure

Sadly, malnourishment has other far-reaching affects: “Researchers estimate that food-insecure older adults are so functionally impaired it is as if they are chronologically 14 years older (e.g., a 65-year-old food-insecure individual is like a 79-year-old chronologically).”2

So how do we ensure that low-income seniors get access to the nutritious food they need? By protecting the federal nutrition programs that seniors rely on such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps), CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program – a monthly food distribution available to people over the age of 60), and meal delivery programs (which provide nutritious meals when cooking becomes too burdensome). 

These critical programs are under attack - and that should outrage all of us, no matter what your age is. Next week we’ll dig deeper into SNAP – and give you an easy opportunity to protect it!  

Take Action:
Is it possible to create a nutritious, balanced meal on a SNAP budget? Try your hand and let us know how it goes! Download our meal planner activity here

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Sources:
1. Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans
2. The State of Senior Hunger in America 2011: An Annual Report