Coronavirus News: COVID-19 wreaking havoc on older Americans, communities of color, AARP finds

Coronavirus Update for New York
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Older Americans and communities of color are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AARP.

The organization's research found that older New Yorkers of color have fallen behind on rent payments and are struggling with food insecurity at far greater rates than their white counterparts.

Additionally, nursing homes with at least a quarter of African American or Latino residents have been twice as likely to be hit by the coronavirus than those with less than 5% of African American and Latino residents.

"This report shows what we've heard for months, that older New Yorkers of color have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic both in terms of their health and their financial security," AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said. "COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the disparities we've been documenting for years. We and our collaborators will keep fighting to make things right for all New Yorkers."

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The AARP also says 77% of households that included an eligible adult age 50 and over were single-person household, and with so many older SNAP enrollees living alone, this presented a particular challenge with many older people unwilling to leave their homes for fear of contracting the coronavirus.

While many grocery stores created shopping hours specifically dedicated to older individuals, many -- especially those living in apartment buildings -- were concerned about venturing out.

Across New York, there has been an increased need for food delivery due to economic stressors, the shuttering of senior centers, and the impacts of isolation among vulnerable populations, including older residents.

While there were numerous home and community food programs before the pandemic, including at New York City senior centers that fed 30,000 older residents each year, the pandemic forced a shift and an expansion of services.

A 2019 pilot program enabled SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online and have the food delivered to their home has provided access points to increase food availability, especially for those who may experience challenges in visiting a brick and mortar store, and also offers the benefit of making food shopping safer during the pandemic.

The state also launched the $25 million Nourish New York initiative, which provides emergency funds for food banks and providers that serve the populations needing food the most.

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Food banks across the state have seen increasingly longer lines of individuals seeking emergency food, and those lines appear to be growing with advocates worrying about sustainability.

New York City launched GetFoodNYC in response to the growing and shifting demand for free meals, with the $170 million plan included opening more than 400 food hubs where any New Yorker can get food and the hiring of taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers to help deliver it.

GetFoodNYC is helping to meet the needs of home-bound older residents who face increased health risks from the pandemic. However, there are a number of concerns with the program, including meals that aren't nutritionally appropriate for older people, especially those who are getting most of their nutrients from delivered food, missed
deliveries because the program has had incorrect addresses, food quality, and the cultural appropriateness of the meals.

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