More than half of Boone County’s residents 65 and older are “food insecure,” while about 3,500 are, by some definitions, living in poverty.
Theresa Hanners, director of The Caring Center in Lebanon, said that, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 estimates, “we have around 6,755 residents 65 years old or older; 6.4 percent are in poverty.”
The number of seniors seeking food assistance from The Caring Center “always increases ... during November and December,” Hanners said.
While other Indiana counties are, on a percentage basis, in worse shape — about 80,000 of Marion County’s 88,000 persons older than 65 fall in the federal government’s low-income category — overall, older Hoosiers are, perhaps surprisingly, among the poorest, hungriest in the United States.
Indianahad the 12th-highest rate of seniors facing food insecurity in the nation in 2007, according to the Meals On Wheels Association of America. On a map indicating in dark blue the states where seniors are at greatest risk of being or going hungry, the entire South is dark blue. Indiana is the only other state that color.
Many seniors fall into the “working poor” category, said Susan A. Ellis, director of the Indianapolis-based Elders At The Table coalition, which includes Boone County.
The coalition used Internal Revenue Service figures to determine income, Ellis said. Some of the population figures EAT used were taken from the 2000 Census, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 estimates. The 2007 estimate was that 6,086 Boone County residents were 65 or older; more than half, 3,553, earned less than $20,000 a year.
“They may not fall into the poverty level, but it’s still a struggle,” she said.
“I think the big issue is that nobody is aware that there is a problem,” Ellis said. “It’s somewhat like childhood hunger; Children are not going to speak up, and neither are seniors, but for different reasons.”