Technology links seniors with food benefits

Technology links seniors with food benefits

Two non-profit organizations are partnering in a technology-driven method to help older adults access federal food benefits.

Health eVillages, which provides free, state-of-the-art medical mobile technology to underserved areas, is joining with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to increase the number of Americans who are screened and enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is a federal program that provides financial assistance and nutrition benefits to supplement the food budgets of low-income individuals and families.

Local volunteers in nine states, including the Seattle area, will use 225 Android tablets to conduct SNAP eligibility assessments and applications while visiting homes and attending outreach events in rural and urban communities. The tablets are been donated by Health eVillages to NCOA.

Many residents have difficulty accessing benefits due to geographical, technological, social, or cultural barriers, NCOA reported. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, only 42 percent of eligible seniors enroll in SNAP, compared to 83 percent of the entire eligible population. NCOA estimates that more than 5 million older adults are eligible but not enrolled.

Nutrition is essential for the physical, cognitive and mental health of older adults, officials said. A poor diet can cause seniors to suffer the physical impairments of someone 14 years older and increase mortality up to 30 percent.

Volunteers will screen SNAP applicants through NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp (, an online tool to help older adults find and apply for benefits that help them pay for daily expenses.