Food Deserts Have an Outsized Impact on Seniors
It’s no secret that American nutrition is in something of a crisis. We live in the most plentiful time in history, with food easier to grow than ever before. But in this time of plenty, the majority of Americans have embraced a diet that is high in sugar, sodium, and processed foods and low in the foods that keep us healthy. Food Deserts Have an Outsized Impact on Seniors
That demand has driven the way food is made available to Americans nationwide. One unique consequence of this change has been the rise in “food deserts.” These are areas where it is considered near impossible to find healthy foods. It should come as no surprise that food deserts are particularly harmful to seniors, who bear the biggest burdens of poor nutrition.
Over 20 Million Americans in Food Desert
A food desert is defined as a geographic area where access to affordable, healthy foods is practically non-existent. Typically, these are areas where there is no proper grocery store or fruit market within a convenient travelling distance. In these areas, residents often depend on fast food and the processed, pre-packaged foods that line the walls of the local convenience store.
You might think that there are only a handful of food deserts in America, but unfortunately, you would be mistaken. Today, more than 23 million Americans live in areas that are considered food deserts, and there are some who believe that this number is an underestimate.
Poor Nutrition is Hardest on Seniors
Studies have shown that the majority of Americans suffer from a lack of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed foods in their diet. This is true even of Americans who live in areas with easy to access nutritious foods. Simply put, most Americans end up eating an unhealthy diet even when the option of a healthier diet is available.
But when you don’t have the option of healthier food, there’s almost no way to escape the effects of malnutrition. Of course, this is a condition that’s harder on seniors than anyone else. Since older Americans are more susceptible to illness, chronic conditions, and poor health, a lack of nutrition has an outsized effect on the older population.
Correcting the Problem
Recently, efforts have been made to limit the number of Americans living in food deserts. Federal, state, and private outreach programs have been set up to bring nutritious foods into areas where they’re typically hard to come by.
But if you have an elderly loved one who lives in an area where it’s hard to find healthy food, you can take action on your own. You can offer to shop for groceries on their behalf, or simply bring a collection of healthier foods on each visit to their home. If you have the time to help them prepare healthy, balanced meals, that’s even better.
If it’s hard for you to be there for your loved one, you might also consider a home care service. At Visiting Angels, our care providers regularly help seniors with grocery shopping and meal preparation, helping clients ensure they receive the nutrition they need. Another way to get involved is through supporting organizations that combat poor nutrition and food deserts. To help, you might consider a donation to Feeding America or another similar charity.
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About the Author
Visiting Angels is a national, private duty network of senior care agencies. We are proud to be the nation’s leading provider of non-medical at home care services. With our elder care services, seniors can remain independent and live safely at home. Our senior care services include Social Care, Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, End of Life Care, Companion Care, Private Duty Care, care to prevent hospital readmission, and so much more.
Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.View All Articles