So where does food tie in? The threat of hunger affects 11% of seniors today. By 2025 that number will increase by 75% and there will be so many more seniors. We are not keeping up today with food insecurity with seniors. What are we going to do in 10 years?
The worse the food insecurity the worse the ADLs, hospitalization rates, behavioral health, asthma, heart disease. Since the onset of the recession in 2007 until 2014, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 65%.
For the Elderly, food insecurity is not only about lack of access:
- lack of money
- transportation limitations,
- health or mobility limitations,
- not the right foods for health including health-related dietary requirements
- lack of motivation to cook or eat
Why does this matter?
Food is medicine. The economic implications of ignoring the health component of food insecurity are enormous.
Food is medicine for older Americans experiencing chronic diseases. Food secure seniors experience a better response to medication, can maintain and gain strength faster and have overall higher chances of recovery and health maintenance. Access to proper nutrition is paramount in the prevention of various illnesses and disabilities, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart and lung problems.
- 50% more likely to be diabetic
- 60% more likely to suffer from depression
- 30% more likely to have at least on ADL limitation
- 40% more likely to report heart attacks
- 200% more likely to develop asthma
- Three times more likely to skip medication or to stop taking them
- Additionally, food insecure seniors also experience decreased resistance to infections and lengthened hospital stays, which ultimately results in higher medical costs.
The healthcare costs associated with food insecurity include hospitalization, needing to move into a nursing home, the cost of a home health aide, increased medications and need to see more doctors.
The complications increase when people live in areas with poor access to food in both rural and urban areas.
A 2013 study showed that monthly health care costs were 31% lower for clients who received the home-delivered meals
By 2040 this entire cohort will be in retirement. At least twice as many seniors as we have now. It is imperative that our society focuses its attention on supporting this generation, as it will soon become the majority of the world population. If preventative measures are not taken for the aging population the economic impact will skyrocket.
What can we do?
Start thinking about healthcare as an ecosystem where all the legs to the stool are supported
Provide better tools for the family caregivers
Work with providers and policy makers to apply an intergenerational approach when trying to meet the nutritional needs of these seniors.
What we are doing at Cognotion
- We need to think about the home as the center for health. Home is the place where we prevent disease. Home is the frontline of healthcare.
- Look at the touchpoint: caregiver or a medical provider. Caregiver becomes the eyes and ears.
- We are partnering with groups that have devices that allow the elderly person to either be monitored or to send info that is collected by everyone in the healthcare continuum.
- Connecting with public health and community-based organizations to step in when we see the need evidenced in a home.
- Educating families on subjects like Ability which includes ways in which individuals prepare foods and combine foods into dishes, meals, and meal patterns
- We need to broaden the provision of healthy, nutritionally-tailored food as a medical service.
- This concept has the potential to produce significant cost savings and help people stay in their communities.
And when communities remain intact, when the needs of multi-generations are met we have stronger communities and that affects healthcare outcomes all around.