Old Age Ain’t for Wimps - Capital Area Food Bank
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Old Age Ain’t for Wimps

By Paula Reichel May 1, 2015

We like our seniors strong.
When I was a child and living with my grandfather, one of my favorite hobbies was to explore the treasures he and my grandmother accumulated over their 70 plus years of life. And while the Purple Heart lodged in the back of his sock drawer and the 50-year-old cure-all in his medicine cabinet were spectacular finds, one object that left a lasting impression was a small rock painted with the iconic Bette Davis phrase, shortened to “Old Age Ain’t for Sissies.”
This phrase stuck with me well into my second and now third generation of life. In my work at the Capital Area Food Bank, I’m reminded of it more than I would like. Even though some view their later years as blissful and golden, others face a more difficult path.
Many older Americans live on fixed incomes, and in growing cities and sprawling suburban areas those incomes don’t always keep pace with the rising cost of living. Add to the equation the enduring economic effects of the recession, and we see many older adults forced to make the difficult  choice between paying for food or rent, utilities and medicine.
The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger documents this trend in its 2013 State of Senior Hunger in America Report, released this past April. According to the report, 15.5 percent of seniors nationally face the threat of hunger, up 45% from 2001. This national trend is mirrored locally. In Washington, D.C., 20.27 percent of seniors face the threat of hunger, the fourth highest rate in the country. Senior hunger has risen in Virginia, with nearly 14 percent of seniors facing hunger, and has stayed relatively constant in Maryland at a little over 13 percent.
Hunger has stark implications for senior health. Seniors experiencing hunger are 60 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 53 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than their food secure peers. Hunger can reduce a senior’s ability to perform activities necessary for daily living including eating, bathing and dressing. All of the above limit a senior’s ability to age well and continue to enrich the community in which they have resided for years.
The CAFB has a renewed focus on addressing senior hunger through its three primary senior nutrition programs. The Senior Brown Bag program will grow 20 percent this year to serve 5,200 seniors across Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. The DC-based Grocery Plus and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program will increase enrollment by expanding pick-up locations and growing its partnership with the DC Office on Aging.
Through these efforts the CAFB hopes to improve the quality of life for seniors living in the Washington metro area. It all starts with healthful food. Throughout the month of May, the CAFB is campaigning to ensure all seniors in need have access to nourishing meals. Consider a contribution today to give older adults the boost they need to stay well and remain Senior Strong.