The Elderly and Malnutrition

Ben, one of our elderly meal recipients.

facts on new york’s elderly

New York City is home to nearly 1.3 million senior citizens, 60 years and older.

As of the 2000 census, there were nearly 1 million elderly (aged 65 and over) in New York City, representing 12 percent of the city’s population.

New York City’s elderly population is distributed among the five boroughs as follows:

  • Bronx: 14.4%
  • Brooklyn: 30.2%
  • Manhattan: 20.0%
  • Queens: 29.9%
  • Staten Island: 5.5%

In New York City, as in the rest of the country, the oldest category of elderly is increasing at the fastest rate.

From 1990 to 2000, the number of people 85 and older increased by 18.7%, making this group the fastest-growing segment of New York City’s elderly population.

The percentage of Citymeals-on-Wheels’ oldest meal recipients is increasing at a fast pace.

The percentage of meal recipients who are 90 or older increased 6% since last year, and those aged 100 and older increased 10%.

As our city’s elderly grow older, they are more likely to have mobility limitations.

90% of our meal recipients use assistive devices for walking (many use more than one device, for instance a cane in their apartment and a walker outside). 66% use canes, 39% use a walker and 16% use a wheelchair.

Minority elderly are increasing at the fastest rates in New York City.

In 2002, nearly 62% of New York City’s elderly were minorities. From 1990 to 2000, the numbers of black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander elderly in the city increased by 14.3%, 26.4%and 78.9%, respectively.

New York City’s elderly are more likely to be poor than other people of the same age around the nation.

This is due in part to the high cost of living.

  • 17.8% of elderly New Yorkers (age 65 and older) reported income levels at or below poverty – nearly double the national elderly poverty rate of 9.9%
  • Nearly 25% of all elderly-headed households in New York City earn an annual income below $10,000
  • Social Security accounts for approximately 80% to 90% of income for people in the lowest two-fifths of the income spectrum
  • Retired workers in the City average $1,011 per month from Social Security
  • Widows and widowers receive an average of $947 per month
  • Disabled workers receive an average of $943 per month

Most meal recipients are isolated and lonely.

  • 73% live alone
  • 40% rarely or never leave their homes
  • 8% have no one to talk to

malnutrition among the elderly – causes and consequences

Definition of Malnutrition:

Malnutrition is defined as any nutritional disorder caused by an insufficient, unbalanced or excessive diet, or by the impaired absorption or assimilation of nutrients by the body.

Millions of American seniors are malnourished.

A 1993 study by the Urban Institute estimated that nearly 5 million elderly Americans (age 60 and over) experience “food insecurity,” meaning they do not get enough to eat.

The Nutrition Screening Initiative estimates that one in four senior citizens living in our communities is malnourished.

It has been estimated that up to 55% of seniors admitted to hospitals are suffering from malnutrition.

14% of our meal recipients (over 2,500 people) rely solely on the one meal a day they receive.

Malnutrition among the elderly is a growing problem.

According to the December 1997 U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness, requests for food assistance by elderly persons increased by an average of nine percent during that year, with 65% of the 29 cities surveyed reporting an increase.

Minority and poor elderly are more likely to be malnourished.

The Urban Institute’s study concluded that the factors most strongly linked to food insecurity were:

  • Income below the poverty level
  • Poor health conditions
  • Minority race/ethnicity

Other risk factors for malnutrition among the elderly include:

  • Cognitive problems
  • Physical incapacity to obtain and/or prepare food
  • Poor dental health
  • Trouble chewing and/or swallowing
  • High consumption of alcohol
  • Social isolation and/or depression
  • Use of multiple medications
  • Advanced age (80+)

1. 2000 Census, as reported in NYC Department for the Aging’s “Census 2000: Changes in Size and Age, 1990 – 2000.”
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. 2000 Census, as reported in DFTA’s “Quick Facts,” July 2003.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid
7. Social Security Administration, Office of Policy, State statistics for December 2004 for New York.