The first Older Americans Month in May 1963 celebrated the contributions of older adults as well as the unique challenges that they face. Special attention to older Americans inspired policy changes like Medicare, which facilitated older adults’ independence, health, and dignity.[1]

This month, we celebrate the strides made to support older Americans and acknowledge that older adults still face many barriers to active aging and wellness, including food insecurity.

In 2022, 9.1 percent of households with adults ages 65 or over experienced food insecurity, the highest level in the last 20 years.[2] Older adults often struggle to make ends meet when on a fixed income. They face additional difficulties, such as social isolation and mobility challenges. In addition, food insecurity can amplify and intensify other health conditions.[3]  Policymakers should act now to remedy these issues to ensure every older adult enjoys their golden years.  

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, giving participants monthly benefits they can use to purchase food, but not enough older adults are enrolled in the program despite being eligible, and the lowest access rates are among older adults with the lowest incomes.[4] Additionally, even when older adults receive SNAP, they may face barriers when recertifying and lose their program enrollment  despite continuing to be eligible. This is a process known as churn. Non-White and urban households are the most likely to experience churn.[5]


Improving access to SNAP is crucial, because SNAP is tailored to some of the greatest challenges that older adults face: 

  • SNAP empowers households to choose the foods they need. Older adults may have special dietary requirements, cultural foods, or religious needs, and because choice is key to SNAP, older adults can select the foods best suited to bolstering their health and meeting their needs. 
  • SNAP is flexible. SNAP is available at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and convenience stores across the country. SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer cards are used just like any other credit or debit card. SNAP continues to become more accessible: For example, the 2018 Farm Bill instituted an online ordering pilot that is particularly useful for older adults with mobility challenges. 

SNAP’s impact provides a framework for supporting older adults going forward. During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Emergency Allotments bolstered benefits to the maximum available based on participants’ household sizes, which supported the agency of older adults with mobility challenges and health issues and improved older adults’ nutrition.[6]

 Policy interventions on the state and federal level that increase access to SNAP and the value of the program among older adults, such as simplifying applications, increasing benefit adequacy, and integrating SNAP enrollment into other benefit applications, will fulfill the vision of Older Americans Month: to ensure that all people, regardless of age, have the agency and independence to support themselves and to participate in their communities.  

[1] “A Proclamation on Older Americans Month, 2023,”

[2] “Food insecurity in U.S. households with older adults increased in 2022,” USDA Food and Nutrition Service (December 12, 2023),

[3] “A Primer: SNAP Supports Older Adults Struggling Against Hunger,” Food Research & Action Center (2022),

[4] Dean O et al., “Access: Who Are the Low-Income and Unenrolled? A State-Level Look,” AARP Foundation (July 2022)

[5] Heflin C et al, “Churn in the Older Adult SNAP Population,” Applied Economic Perspective in Policy 45 (May 24, 2022),


[6] Ashbrook A et al., “The Case for Making SNAP Benefits Adequate: Reflections from Interviews with Older Adults,” Food Research & Action Center (February 2022)