"We couldn't make ends meet when there were four of us in the house. Then our family size went from 4 to 8 overnight."
"I've been married for 60 years. He has emphysema and I take care of him. I take care of my mom now too. She's not doing good…it gets harder every year. Her dentures don't fit right. It's hard to see her sit there and cry."
"I lost my house. I live in a trailer now with my son, his family and a dog. "
"My daughter and I would be homeless if it wasn't for my roommate. I worry every day that something might happen to my roommate. I trust in God. If he doesn't want me to be homeless he will keep her safe."
These are the words of Ohioans I met this month, "baby boomers" waiting for their turn at a food pantry. Emergency food providers here are reporting ever-increasing household sizes as families, friends, and neighbors combine resources to keep food on the table, the lights on, and a roof over their heads.
The good people who told us their stories are at a time in their lives when they may have expected to be at their peak earning power, saving for retirement, closing in on paying off student loan or mortgage debt, helping their own children and younger families. Instead they have lost almost everything and face a job market shifting rapidly away from the skills they used to build their lives. What will happen to them?
I was raised by baby boomers, nurtured by the Greatest Generation, and I know I'm not alone in my belief that we have to do better than this. We are working hard at that but we can't do it alone. It's the end of Older Americans Month this year. When will our country choose to invest in our people? When will we get loud about the needs of the people we serve? In these words of wisdom from another baby boomer I met this month:
"I'm just a regular man. I'm not highly educated. It seems like a lot of the powers that be, they have set in place the things they want to do, once they get there. You would have to find an awful humble person in that position to even want to listen to a person like myself."
Nora Balduff, LSW, MSW is the director of child and senior nutrition at the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. She has an Interdisciplinary Specialization in Aging from The Ohio State University and was selected as a scholar by the John A. Hartford Foundation and the New York Academy of Medicine. She most recently worked to coordinate a series of 16 Community Conversations and 6 Hunger Summits across the State of Ohio, in an effort to learn from local stakeholders about the prevalence, causes and consequences of hunger among Ohio's most vulnerable populations and the effectiveness and further need for programs that provide hunger relief and economic stability.
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