You know the grocery store drill, first you have to get there, take a cart walk long aisles to gather necessities.  You put them into the cart, take them out of the cart and put them on the checkout counter.  Then you may or may not have someone place those bags back in your cart so that you take them to your car.  Once they are in the car, you will have to unload them again at home and put them the various places they need to be.  Then you have to cook something.   

As you get older this trek out and back and handling all measures of over packed bags gets even more tiresome.  If the average senior is living ten years post giving up their car keys, something else has to happen. Many seniors need to take their medications with meals. Meals on Wheels and the money that goes to  have community meals available at senior centers will always be in jeopardy funding wise. 

The too small to see (sorry) map* up top is a representation of where people live with no car and more than a mile from a grocery store. The darker the color the higher percentage of people with limited food access. How does this not add up to a food deserts in the midst of the land of plenty?

The American Planning Association states that “Since 2010, the threat of hunger for older adults aged 60 and older has increased 78%.” 

Some basic ideas that have been proposed are:

  • Amend laws to permit fresh food vendors in neighborhoods under served by grocery stores or mobile food markets (does anyone remember a huckster (veggies on wheels) coming around to sell to your parents? I do.
  • Amend zoning to allow for urban agriculture (or least not to prohibit it, if you can grow, it is should be yours to have or share. Some areas allow you to bring take your excess fresh harvest to the food bank once a week.)
  • Consider relationships between current and new housing for older adults and the location of food resources. (there should be a grocery store in walking distance of senior apartments)

Farmer’s markets have evolved into something unrecognizable. In their original form they were supposed to be for basic fresh food,  not gourmet treats and crafts. Yes, the direct to your door supermarket delivery services are growing, they have to.  They cost on average $7-10 per order. 

Other APA ideas, some of which I have seen happen in my own community:

  • Focus on need at the neighborhood scale and creative solutions to overcome access challenges. Some markets will bring your online order to your car no charge. These same smaller markets hopefully will not be crushed by online only competitors.
  • Cooking healthy classes for one or two people given at schools with active adult courses.
  • Congregate meals done at a restaurant rather than senior centers to attract older adults that may not want to go to a senior center. This is also a good way to connect with your neighbors. 
  • Food pantries that offer fresh fruits and vegetables

Food insecurity does not translate to just lack of money to buy food. Those of us staying put at home, will be challenged to manage what resources are out there to keep ourselves fed and healthy. 

*Map of food access. Image courtesy American Nutrition Association.

To read in more detail about hunger among the senior population: