All about Food (Part I)

What makes a story reach your heart? Growing up around my grandma’s kitchen, food is the key to my stomach as much as it is to my heart. Access to food and water is a basic human right, vital to the health and well-being of everyone. In this land of plenty, 1.4 million households with elderly members (5.5%) experience food insecurity (ADA, 2005). In the next few days, I will post a collection of personal stories—an incomplete sketch of the big picture. I wrote these more than 5 years ago. Sadly, things haven’t changed much since then.

***

Story 1:   The Donut Shop

One, two, three, and four; coins shimmered in his palm. Eight more pennies and he could have gone to the burger place. The girl handed him a chocolate-glazed donut before he asked. She knew him well. She knew that’s the only thing he could afford. Some days she wished she could spare him a sandwich, but there’re too many of them in the city. Wasn’t there a soup kitchen nearby? She stared hard at the cash register, suppressing the guilt she felt as he limped out of the store.

***
You have seen this before—Nameless wrinkled faces at coffee shops and burger places. The Older Americans Act (OAA) is for everyone aged 60 and above, homeless or not (ADA, 2005). Why do some of our impoverished seniors fall through the crack? When poverty and aging intersect, are we doing enough to cater to the needs of poor people who are old, just as we are serving older people who are poor?

We can’t talk about a balanced diet before there is food on the table. While various programs are available through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), low-income seniors who are physically mobile and relatively healthy may not realize that they are eligible for services.

We need to be aware of existing food and nutrition programs. We need to educate our service providers about these resources. Without hooking people up with services, it is hard to achieve an ideal continuum of care in the real world.

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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