Senior Stories and What We Can Learn This Older Americans Month
May is Older Americans Month, making this a great time to recognize and honor all that older adults do for their communities. Older adults play an especially critical role in D.C.: more than 160,000 residents (greater than 20 percent of the population) over the age of 55 live in the District.
D.C. has been recognized by the World Health Organization as an “Age-Friendly City.” The Age-Friendly DC Task Force works to ensure that the District provides “accessible facilities, friendly personnel, quality products, and services to the 50+ demographic of Washington, D.C.”
This also is a time to recognize the issues facing older adults. Food insecurity continues to plague older Americans in the nation and especially in the District. In fact, 14.3 percent of people age 60+ in D.C. experienced food insecurity before the pandemic — the highest rate of older adult food insecurity in the entire country. We at D.C. Hunger Solutions (DCHS) recognize it is more critical than ever to ensure that older adults apply to the federal nutrition programs for which they qualify.
As we continue to connect with older adults throughout the District, and assist them with applying for programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), that have proven to help decrease hunger, we wanted to take a moment to share some older residents’ personal stories. We believe these stories are critical to help understand the cruel reality of older adult food insecurity and to celebrate the positive difference that the federal nutrition programs can make.
Ellie is an older adult who was receiving food boxes. When she had the opportunity at the end of 2019 to move, her mail never arrived at her new home. She had no way to know it was time to file an interim report to continue receiving the food boxes she depended on for nutritional support. She was kicked off the program for months, unable to continue living a healthy, hunger-free life, until she reapplied.
Ellie shared that older adults have so much on their minds. She fears COVID-19, is devastated by the loss of lifelong friends to the pandemic, and misses seeing her children and grandchildren. She explained that older adults are so busy trying to monitor their health as they age, and everything takes longer to do than it used to, that she finds herself missing deadlines on important bills and programs, including nutrition programs, without even realizing it.
Luckily Ellie was able to rejoin the food box program. When she recently received a flyer for SNAP in her food box, she was overjoyed. She was grateful to be able to speak to a real person at DCHS, to be able to ask clarifying questions and receive assistance applying for SNAP on the phone. Ellie explained that DCHS made all the difference in her ability to complete the application by working with her on her own timeline and asking her what she needed to feel comfortable.
Now Ellie is receiving Social Security and SNAP benefits. Additional SNAP benefits available through COVID-19 legislation make it possible for her to buy the food she needs and wants. She is thankful to DCHS and SNAP for making a healthy, happy life her reality again.
Glenn is a lifelong volunteer. He has always been passionate about helping others and is a strong community advocate. Along with being active in local and national politics his entire life, Glenn served as an older adult advocate with AARP, teaching other older adults skills, such as safe driving, and how to protect themselves from identity theft and fraud. Glenn is now 90 and home-bound but is still helping his neighbors.
In his monthly delivered food box from the Capitol Area Food Bank, Glenn recently received a flyer from DCHS with their SNAP. He had never heard of SNAP and had no idea he could qualify. He did qualify, and he started participating in the program. Since receiving SNAP benefits, he has become a champion for SNAP, and has been doing his part to share with all his neighbors on Social Security that they too may qualify for these critical benefits.
Currently, Glenn is working on partnering with AARP to host a talk on SNAP to further spread program awareness.
We are so thankful to have connected with Ellie and Glenn, proud D.C. residents and important partners and friends of DCHS.
As Ellie and Glenn highlighted in their personal stories, older adults often do not know they may qualify for SNAP, which can remarkably improve their lives. DCHS needs your help to reach all older Americans within the District because addressing older adult food insecurity cannot wait. We have outlined below some important steps you can take to help us end older adult food insecurity in the District.
- Apply for SNAP if you are eligible: Check out our Facebook and website for important information on qualifying and applying for SNAP, as well as for information on how to access other important older adult resources.
- Widely advertise SNAP: We must ensure that all SNAP-eligible older adults and other District residents apply. Share our guide to SNAP for D.C. seniors with your networks, call DCHS at (202)640-1088 for more information on the application process, and connect residents to DCHS for SNAP application assistance.
- Educate the public about older adult hunger: Share our resources related to addressing food insecurity among older adults on your social media and be sure to share our blog with your networks.
*Some names have been changed at the contributor’s request.