Hunger: Unspoken Among the Elderly
Retirees in one Orlando-area community sustain a lively conversation about every topic under the Florida sun, a conversation that threads through their rounds of horseshoes, dinner dances at the club house, and senior yoga.
But one subject must be handled with great discretion: hunger.
Judy Cipra knows this, because she and her late husband, Fran Cipra, started, and she continues to operate, Fran’s Pantry to collect money and buy groceries for 18 seniors who struggle financially in the Palm Valley retirement community, where my mother also lives.
“If you call me and you tell me that you need food, I don’t ask any questions,” Cipra said. “You just get it.”
Cipra said people reliant solely on Social Security are often embarrassed to be barely getting by. Some fill their food gaps with soda crackers and peanut butter, she said.
But hunger among seniors is not uncommon. About 15 percent of Americans age 60 and older were threatened with hunger in 2012, according to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger. And as the baby boom population ages, the number of these “food insecure” seniors is continuing to rise, exposing growing numbers of retirees to health problems and depression stemming from not having enough to eat.
The Palm Valley seniors don’t always know precisely when Cipra’s delivery will arrive – or what she will bring. But when they open the door and see her standing there, holding two or three bags of groceries, she said, “their eyes light up.”