Millions of Seniors Go Hungry, GAO Finds

Sanders Cites Need to Expand Help for Older Americans

WASHINGTON, June 15 – A study for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) found that nearly 4 million low-income seniors – more than 1 in 5 – do not know where their next meal is coming from.

The Government Accountability Office found that fewer than 10 percent of low-income seniors who needed a meal delivered to their homes in 2013 received one. One in three low-income seniors age 60-69 is what the government defines as “food insecure,” yet fewer than 5 percent receive a meal at home or at a senior center.  Elderly people with a disability, minorities and seniors living on less than $10,000 a year were even more likely to be hungry.

The GAO study requested by Sanders updated findings in a 2008 report on the unmet need for Older Americans Act services. First passed by Congress in 1965 and this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Older Americans Act provides essential services for seniors like nutrition programs, job training, caregiver support, transportation, and protection from abuse and financial exploitation.

The report out today noted that while the number of older adults has increased from 56 to 63 million, funding provided to states has gone down since 2009.

Sanders has called for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act and has led Senate efforts to increase funding for Older Americans Act programs. “The demand for these programs is great and in many areas of the country vulnerable seniors are on waiting lists for services that they desperately need,” wrote Sanders in a letter signed by 32 other senators. The letter was sent to the Senate appropriations members who later this year will set funding levels for senior programs.

“A nation is judged by how it cares for its most vulnerable including the elderly and children. It is not acceptable that millions of elderly in this country are living in poverty and struggling to feed themselves,” Sanders said. “Instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires we should be expanding nutrition programs and other services for seniors,” the senator added.

Funding for the Older Americans Act programs is not sufficient to meet the needs of seniors who need help with daily activities. The report found that 16 million (27 percent) older adults from all income levels report difficulties with one or more daily activities. More than two-thirds of these seniors do not get the help they need.

Sanders is an original co-sponsor of legislation, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), that would reauthorize the Older Americans Act.

Read the report here.

Read the letter to Senate appropriators here.