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August 2015

Far Too Many Seniors Are Going Hungry: Only a Few Programs Are Stepping Up to the Empty Plate

Washington Watch

 

Millions of seniors are struggling to put food on the table –a dramatic spike in the problem, according to two new reports. Despite the recent uptick in the U.S. economy, an astonishingly large number of Americans – 9.6 million over the age of 60 – could not reliably buy or access food at least part of the year.

 

That’s one in every six older men and women. And those numbers are much lower than the reality. Those who analyze the numbers say that large groups of seniors aren’t even being included in those numbers because it’s hard to reach them to find out they aren’t eating.

 

In their early 60s, many people “are kind of transitioning from work into retirement, and ... may not have access to the health safety net,” said James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research and a co-author of the report. “So some of the folks may face this trade-off between paying for prescription drugs versus feeding themselves.”

 

Ziliak’s study, commissioned by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), using 2013 numbers, the latest available from the U.S. Census, found since the onset of the recession in 2007, the percentage of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger increased 28 percent, a larger jump than the increase in the number of seniors over age 60, which is now 60.4 million.

 

A second study, commissioned by the AARP Foundation and conducted by researchers at University of Central Florida, focused on those over 40 years old and found that 18 percent of people over that age face food security issues.

 

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Healthcare and Baseball: Welcome to the Big Leagues

The Hippocratic Oaf

 

Baseball and healthcare have been part of our communities in small towns and large for many generations. Baseball was a uniquely American institution and easy to play; all you needed was a stick, a ball and a field. Healthcare was community-based too; all you needed was the local doctor and patients. For baseball you simply left your house and went to the local field to play, and for healthcare you stayed in your house and the doctor came to you. Nowadays, for baseball you stay in your house and watch it on TV, and for healthcare you leave your house and go the hospital which sits on the field where you used to play baseball.

 

Every town had a local team and league of other towns to play. Players were local heroes and older townspeople may reminisce about glory days gone by when they had hit or witnessed a grand slam to win the county trophy.

 

Doctors were local heroes too. You trusted them and they personally knew you and your family. The doctor was a confidant that approached the status of relative or dearest friend. An older physician may have delivered multiple generations of the same family and this was in many ways a version of glory days as well. No contract stood between you and access to healthcare. Payment was not in copays, deductibles and coinsurance but could be by the barter system or even an IOU.

 

So what happened? Our local heroes have been replaced by a string of individuals that change frequently over the years. We no longer have that personal connection. Doctors have to ask you about family history because they don’t already know. You have to read up on players from many cities and even countries as they play for your team now. The feeling of community is lost amongst medical tests that cost thousands of dollars as technicians you have never met operate machines that fill entire rooms creating images for a doctor you have never met to review tomorrow. At the new baseball stadium, cheap $50 tickets seat you next to rude strangers in a peanut gallery as you sip an $8 beer.

 

But it’s all improved right? It just got better and better, I know it did. I know it because, well, I pay so much it must be good, even great!

 

Well, it’s Big Business now, and that’s very American too.

 

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