The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting older adults in various ways. In addition to being isolated and lonely, many do not have access to healthy food.Many Americans stocked up on groceries early in the pandemic, which led to shortages of essential items such as canned goods, flour, crackers, and paper products. As supply chains begin to improve, many older adults in our communities are still struggling for food.
Contributing factors to this surge in food insecurity include:
- Closures of Senior Dining Facilities –Some community dining rooms are temporarily closed. This can result in more older adults who need home-delivered meals to survive.
- Increased Need - Meals on Wheels America reports their requests for new meal services have more than doubled.
- Lack of Transportation – Many relied on family members or neighbors for rides to the grocery store. With more people isolating, some older adults have increased difficulty obtaining groceries. Those with physical challenges may struggle using public transportation.
- Lack of Technology – Many online grocery apps and services are not practical for older adults who do not have access or skills needed to use technology to order groceries. Also, paying a premium for having groceries delivered could be budget prohibitive.
We can all do our part to help reduce the burden of food security. Here are some ways to help:
- Help your neighbor – Next time you run to the store, ask a neighbor who may need help if you can shop for them. They would be so grateful for your support!
- Volunteer at a Senior Organization – Over three-quarters of those who volunteer to bring meals to others are over 55 and possibly at higher risk if exposed to COVID-19. Organizations are taking precautions to keep their volunteers safe by providing masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves. The volunteers may not need to enter the home but can call ahead before dropping off the meals and maintain social distancing.
Here are just a few ways you can make a difference:
- Meals on Wheels - Volunteers are needed to deliver meals in local communities.
- AARP’s Guide to volunteering with ideas on ways to help.
- Learn how to help someone obtain assistance to receive meals.
- Medicare Advantage Health Plans – Many health plans provide home-delivered meals to their members during isolation. Contact your plan to see if you, or your loved one, are eligible.