Tuesday, July 31, 2012

End Senior Hunger in Georgia

By Deborah Britt and Jeffrey Smythe

For the second time, Georgia has been ranked among the top 10 states for senior hunger — a dubious distinction for a state that typically considers a top 10 ranking a good thing.

This disturbing news comes from “Senior Hunger in America 2010: An Annual Report,” a research study prepared by respected economists Dr. James P. Ziliak and Dr. Craig Gundersen and issued in May by The Meals On Wheels Research Foundation.

As of 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), more than 17 percent of Georgia’s seniors faced the threat of hunger — an increase from 14.8 percent in 2007 and well above the current national average of 14.85 percent. That put Georgia seventh among the Top 10.

Nationally, 8.3 million seniors were threatened by hunger, an increase of 78 percent from 2001 to 2010. Notably, six of the Top 10 are in the South: Mississippi (No. 1), Tennessee (No. 5), Alabama (No. 6), Georgia (No. 7), South Carolina (No. 8), and Florida (No. 9) — a shocking reality that the entire region needs to recognize.

Georgia’s ranking reflects the increased demand that we are experiencing for services such as Meals On Wheels.

In Atlanta, we’re seeing the largest waiting list we’ve ever experienced, while south of the city, Fayette County is home to one of the fastest-growing senior populations in Atlanta.

There’s no question that we can do better, and we must. Part of the challenge is a refusal to acknowledge that there is a problem.

As a society, we do not like to think about the fact that our parents and grandparents, the very people who raised us, might be going without a meal — much less many meals. But it happens every day, and if programs such as Meals On Wheels were not there to provide seniors with nutritious meals, many of them simply would not eat.

It’s often assumed that hunger is a problem limited to the poor — but that is not the case. This latest research shows that the majority of seniors facing the threat of hunger have incomes one to two times the poverty level. Too many of them are forced to make the choice between buying medications or a meal.

Our own senior nutrition programs are struggling to keep pace with demand, and costs are rising. Food prices have risen 6 percent nationally in the past year, and rising gas prices are an added burden — especially for Meals On Wheels programs that depend on volunteers to deliver the meals.

Given this stark reality, one might reasonably ask how a solution can be found.

Fortunately, the cure for senior hunger exists. In the richest nation on the planet we have an abundance of food. We have an abundance of ingenuity, generosity and compassion. We also have an existing infrastructure for delivering that food.

What we need now is to recognize that the problem is growing and take action.

Georgia owes it to its senior citizens to end senior hunger for good.

Deborah Britt is president and CEO for Fayette Senior Services. Jeffrey Smythe is executive director for Meals On Wheels Atlanta.
This editorial originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 27, 2012.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tips for Keeping Senior Loved Ones Safe in the Heat

Heat kills more Americans in a typical year than any other weather disaster - more than hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or any other – according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, we have already seen at least 30 people die in the heat wave that has gripped much of the U.S. to kick off Summer 2012. As in most years, senior adults make up most of those deaths, a fact driving Senior Care Corner to offer tips for keeping senior loved ones safe in hot weather.
Seniors are most often hit hardest by hot weather because their systems often don’t adjust as well to extreme changes in temperature as do those of people who are younger. On top of that, many are taking medications or have medical conditions that affect their ability to cope with temperature changes, which is compounded because they often don’t recognize thirst and can quickly become dehydrated in the heat, compounding their illness. This makes it most important to plan ahead to protect older adults who are aging in place during periods of very hot weather for their location, especially for family caregivers who live at a distance.
“The most important part of planning is assuring senior loved ones ride out extreme heat in air conditioning” says Barry Birkett of Senior Care Corner. “If their home is not air conditioned we need to arrange to get them to the home of someone who is or a location such as a mall where they can relax out of the heat.”
Planning Ahead to Protect Seniors from Severe Heat

If their home has air conditioning, make sure it’s in good working order with regular inspections to minimize the risk it will quit on the hottest day.

Make sure senior loved ones use the air conditioning when they have it. Financial strains have driven many to cut back, but keeping the A/C off on the hottest days can be deadly.

For those living in homes without air conditioning, agree on plans for them to go to a location that has it, including arranging in advance for transportation when needed.

Stress upon them the need to drink a lot of cool, nonalcoholic beverages –especially water - in the heat, even if not thirsty.

Check in on senior loved ones who are aging in place at least twice a day in extreme heat, even if they have air conditioning. Talking on the phone may not be sufficient to determine if they are suffering from the heat, so those living at a distance may want to arrange in advance for Skype video calls.
Taking these precautions won’t guarantee senior loved ones stay safe from heat-related illness or worse, but they will improve the chances they won’t become one of the summer statistics.
About Senior Care Corner

Senior Care Corner (on the web at SeniorCareCorner.com) provides solutions, information and tools to family caregivers and others who care for and about senior adults to help them improve the lives of the seniors in their lives. Their blog, biweekly podcast and bookstore address a wide variety of topics family caregivers can use to better understand the wants and needs of their senior loved ones.

Originally posted at http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/7/prweb9679810.htm.