Poverty is a huge problem in America, especially concerning our elder population. For the millions of elders aged 65 or older, poverty rates seem to be only getting worse with age. Narrowing our focus down to the health and nutrition aspect of elderly poverty, meeting the nutritional needs of older people is crucial in the maintenance of health, functional independence and quality of life (Leslie & Hankey, 2015). An older person that is at or under the poverty line is more likely to experience food insecurity, weight-related issues, and has an increased risk of developing certain illnesses and conditions. Through the review of appropriate literature, the truth regarding these facts will be brought to light. The poverty rate among people aged 65 and older increases with age and is higher for people in relatively poor health (Cubanski, Koma, Damico, & Neuman, 2018). The people who are considered to be in poor health are the ones who suffer from food insecurity, have trouble with weight management, and who develop related health conditions.
2 million older adults are considered to be in fair or poor health and live in poverty (Cubanski et al., 2018). This huge number is alarming and should be taken as a serious problem in our modern society. Nearly 6 in 10 older adults in fair or poor health have incomes below 200% of poverty compared to 3 in 10 older adults in excellent or very good health (Cubanski et al., 2018). Our older adults that are in relatively poor health are more likely to be near poverty levels than those with better health. This is where the concept of food insecurity comes into play. By Lee and Frongillo’s (2001) definition, food insecurity refers to the inability to afford nutritionally adequate and safe foods. The same two researchers go on to say that many of the U.S. households with elderly persons struggle to meet their basic food needs (2001). In 2015, 2.9 million households with a senior aged 65 or older experienced food insecurity (NCOA, 2017). This already large number has only been increasing with the passing years. Elderly persons have nutritional and health characteristics that distinguish them from people in other age groups, and the phenomenon of food insecurity is also distinct in this population (Lee & Frongillo, 2001a).
The elderly persons that struggle to meet their basic food needs may experience a negative effect on their health and quality of life, either directly or indirectly through nutritional status (Lee & Frongillo, 2001). These elders likely have multiple problems that prevent them from achieving nutritional well-being, like limited food affordability, availability, and accessibility (Lee & Frongillo, 2001a). They are also more likely to participate in food assistance programs than food-secure elderly persons, and nutrition programs should recognize and provide services to cover such needs (Lee & Frongillo, 2001a). The issue of food insecurity exists among our elders today and will continue to be a problem onwards. The food insecurity our elders face is predicted to increase dramatically through the 21st century. We, as a nation, should place a focus on providing complementary information to better tailor nutrition and health services for our ever-increasing and diverse older population (Lee & Frongillo, 2001). If this problem goes unchecked, multiple consequences of food insecurity can arise, including various health problems and increased body weight. Excess body weight is widely known to be a risk factor for disease and other complications.
There is ample evidence that suggests how big of an epidemic the issue of dealing with overweight and obese individuals really is in America. While a wide range of the American population deals with weight-related issues, it may be surprising to realize that obesity reaches its peak among people in their 50s (Haber, 2013). More specifically, obesity peaks between the ages of 45 and 55 for men, and between 55 and 65 for women (Haber, 2013). With this numerical evidence, it may be worthwhile to help educate our target population on how the weight status of a population is measured, and what those measurements may mean. While there are several ways to gauge the weight status of a population, two standards likely come to mind. The body mass index (BMI) can be seen as a sufficiently accurate tool in some cases, as it does provide a simple and roughly accurate method for determining the population overweight and obesity (Haber, 2013). However, the waist-to-hip ratio seems to be a better predictor of heart attack. The higher the waist-to-hip ratio, the greater the risk of a heart attack (Harber, 2013).
The association is not as strong when using the BMI measurements, however, the probability of experiencing obesity-related chronic diseases increases among individuals with a high BMI (Monteverde, Noronha, Palloni, & Novak, 2010). A priority should be placed in public health to help increase awareness between the association of obesity and age-related health issues. Chronic conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes are also associated with obesity (Vásquez, Batsis, Germain, & Shaw, 2014). Older people that are at or under the poverty line are more likely to experience an increased risk of developing certain health conditions. The six leading causes of death among older Americans in 2014 were chronic diseases, including hypertension and diabetes (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, 2016). The good news is that the negative effects of these chronic conditions are caused by health risk behaviors that can be changed (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, 2016). Although there is a variety of health issues that older adults face in America, there are a few specific conditions that affect a large portion of the target population.
The truth is that the majority of our older adults have to deal with multiple chronic conditions (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, 2016). More than 85% of Americans aged 65 years or older are affected by hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes (McCarthy, 2000). 85% may seem like a large number of affected persons, however, it is known that these conditions can be reduced, managed, or alleviated with improved nutrition. Improved nutrition has been shown to help prevent disease and improve the health of people with the mentioned conditions (McCarthy, 2000). This is great news for our older adults that are struggling with these health issues as it may provide them with a sense of hope and a source of motivation to make an actual behavioral change. We know that meeting the nutritional needs of older people is crucial in the maintenance of health, especially as we age. This is no easy task, but we must take precedence over such matters as it will enable a part of our population to better themselves. Many of us realize how important it is to maintain a good level of health as we age.
The people who are considered to be in good health are less likely to experience the downsides that the people who are considered to be in reltivley poor health experience. Older adults that are in relatively poor health are more likely to be near poverty levels than those with better health. An older person that is at or under the poverty level is more likely to experience food insecurity, weight-related issues, and an increased risk of developing certain health conditions. The older persons who suffer from any of the mentioned circumstances are considered to be in poor health. Although this may seem to affect a large portion of our target population, there is hope. As mentioned throughout the paper, nutrition programs need to recognize and provide services that cover the needs of our ever-growing and diverse elder population. By placing a focus on providing complementary information to better tailor nutrition and health services, and by increasing the awareness between the association of obesity and age-related health issues, we as a society can greatly impact the future of our elder population.
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