More than eight million baby boomers between the ages of 50 and 64 are turning to food assistance to make ends meet, a report from Feeding America finds.
According to the report, Baby Boomers and Beyond: Facing Hunger After Fifty (executive summary, 24 pages, PDF), 62 percent of the 13 million adults age 50 and older served by Feeding America's network of foodbanks are "pre-seniors" under the age of 64, with the majority of them not yet eligible for federal support programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Based on data collected from Feeding America clients for the Hunger in America 2014 report, the study found that among those surveyed, "pre-seniors" are more likely than older seniors to live in a household experiencing food insecurity (86 percent) or poverty (72 percent), report poor health (59 percent), have unpaid medical bills (58 percent), receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (55 percent), or experience housing instability, such as having to move in with friends or family (18 percent) or having faced foreclosure or eviction within the past five years (15 percent). In addition, the report found that nearly two-thirds of "pre-senior" survey respondents had not been employed in the past year, and that 73 percent of those individuals cited being disabled or in poor health as the reason for their unemployment.
Funded by AARP, the report also found that a majority of Feeding America clients age 50 and older have to choose between paying for food or for medical care (63 percent), utilities (60 percent), or transportation (58 percent), with even higher percentages among multigenerational households that include at least one grandchild. Strategies that older adults employ to make ends meet include buying the cheapest food available, even if it is unhealthy (77 percent); visiting a charitable feeding program on a regular basis to supplement their monthly food budget (64 percent); receiving help from friends and family (46 percent); and diluting their food or drink (38 percent).
"Hunger is an invisible problem that millions of older Americans battle silently every day," said AARP Foundation president Lisa Marsh Ryerson. "We have found that the 'youngest old' — people 50 to 59 — tend to suffer the most, often having to skimp on meals or skip them altogether because they can't afford them....Feeding America's boomer-focused research reinforces our earlier research on this hidden and very serious problem, and intensifies our commitment to address it."