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Hunger and malnutrition is a greater problem for America's seniors than many may realize. According to a report by the Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) Foundation, more than five million American seniors 11.4 percent of those 65 and older experienced some form of food insecurity. Of that number 2.5 million were at risk of hunger and about 750,000 experience hunger.
A variety of programs exists to help seniors get proper nutrition, such as Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to seniors, on-site meal programs provided by community organizations and senior centers, food pantries, and the federal food stamp program.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), about 60 percent of low-income seniors who qualify for federal and state nutrition programs have not enrolled. NCOA offers a free Web-based service, BenefitsCheckUp® (www.benefitscheckup.org), to help people over 55 identify nutrition and other benefits for which they qualify.
Here are some other ways you can help ensure seniors get proper nutrition:
- Find a grocery with home delivery service.
- Look to churches and community organizations that have volunteers who shop and cook for seniors who live alone.
- Check in regularly with seniors and share meals with them.
- Join with other seniors who are alone, share in meal preparation and dine together.
- Schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.
- Hire a professional caregiving provider, such as Comfort Keepers®, to assist with meal preparation, shopping, companionship during meals and other times, and provide other needed assistance around the home.
- Talk with your doctor about screening for potential nutritional problems, switching to medications that don't affect appetite and reconsidering diets that may be discouraging a senior from eating.
- Help seniors get regular exercise. Exercise is an appetite booster, strengthens bones and muscles and helps control depression.