Food insecurity is prevalent even in the older adults with private-sector healthcare coverage. System-level interventions would be necessary to connect the older adults with community-based food resources.
Social issues such as hunger, inadequate housing, and poverty are linked to poor health, especially as people age. When community organizations and healthcare systems coordinate with each other, they are able to address these concerns individually and as a society.
Food insecurity occurs when people lack access to food due to poverty or other challenges. Food insecurity is a serious problem for many older adults. In 2015, 8.3% of American households with a family member aged 65 or older and 9.2% of all older adults experienced food insecurity.
A research team from the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, Colorado, designed a study to learn more about food insecurity and older adults. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The researchers examined information from a health survey that was given to more than 50,000 older adults between 2012 and 2015. The survey was part of a free Annual Wellness Visit for Medicare members in Kaiser Permanente Colorado. It included a question about food security.
More than 50,000 people answered the question about food insecurity. More than 2,950 people (almost 6%) said that they did not always have enough money to buy the food they needed.
The study revealed that food insecurity was 4.8% in elderly people aged 85years or older and it was least common in 6.2% of elderly people aged between the 75 years and 84 years.
More than 25% of people with both Medicaid (government insurance for people living below the federal poverty line) and Medicare (government insurance for older adults) reported having food insecurity.
Food insecurity was more common among women, people without a spouse or partner, those who used tobacco or alcohol, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, people who had been hospitalized, visited an emergency department, or had lived in a nursing home in the year before the survey.
Food insecurity was reported by 10% or more of people who had fair or poor general health or quality-of-life, oral or dental problems, trouble with bathing, eating, dressing, and performing other activities of daily living, poor diet, no one to call for help.
The researchers said that ways to identify food insecurity in older adults needed to be combined with methods to connect older adults with community-based food resources. Food insecurity has been prevalent even in older adults with private-sector healthcare coverage.