Healthy aging is an important public health issue, both nationally and internationally. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes healthy aging as a process whereby all people of all ages are able to live a healthy, safe and socially inclusive lifestyle. Discuss how social determinants of health for the older adult are impacted for those living in poverty.


Healthy aging is a growing concern in public health, as the global population continues to age. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies healthy aging as a process that allows individuals of all ages to live a healthy, safe, and socially inclusive lifestyle (World Health Organization, 2015). While the concept of healthy aging encompasses various dimensions, this paper will focus specifically on the social determinants of health for older adults living in poverty.

Social determinants of health refer to the social and economic conditions in which individuals are born, live, work, and age, and how these factors impact their health (World Health Organization, 2019). Older adults living in poverty are significantly affected by social determinants of health, as they may be more susceptible to adverse health outcomes due to limited access to resources and increased vulnerability. Therefore, understanding and addressing the impact of social determinants of health on this population is crucial for promoting healthy aging.

Income and Poverty

One of the most significant social determinants of health for older adults living in poverty is their income level and poverty status. Income and poverty greatly influence people’s access to healthcare, education, housing, nutrition, and social support. Older adults living in poverty often face financial constraints that limit their ability to access high-quality healthcare services and afford medications and treatments.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019), the poverty rate for adults aged 65 and older in the United States was 9.7% in 2018. This implies that nearly one in ten older adults in the country were living below the poverty line, facing numerous challenges related to their health and well-being. These challenges include difficulties in affording adequate nutrition, stable housing, and preventive healthcare services.

Healthcare Access

Limited access to healthcare services is a critical issue for older adults living in poverty, and it significantly impacts their health outcomes. Older adults reliant on government-funded healthcare programs, such as Medicaid or Medicare, may face challenges in accessing specialized care or timely appointments due to a shortage of healthcare providers or restrictions imposed by these programs. This limited access can result in delayed diagnoses and treatments, leading to poorer health outcomes for this population.

Moreover, the out-of-pocket costs associated with healthcare can be a substantial burden for older adults living in poverty. Older adults with limited financial resources may delay or forego necessary medical care due to the costs involved. This delay in seeking healthcare can exacerbate existing health conditions and increase the risk of developing further complications.

Housing and Environment

The living conditions and environment in which older adults reside also significantly impact their health. Housing instability and inadequate housing conditions are prevalent among older adults living in poverty. High housing costs, limited affordable housing options, and substandard living conditions, such as poor ventilation and lack of heating or cooling, can adversely affect older adults’ physical and mental health.

Substandard housing conditions can contribute to the development or worsening of respiratory diseases, chronic health conditions, and mental health issues. Additionally, older adults living in poverty may be more vulnerable to environmental hazards, such as exposure to toxic substances or unsafe neighborhoods, which further compromise their health and well-being.

Nutrition and Food Insecurity

Nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health throughout the lifespan, especially for older adults. However, older adults living in poverty often face challenges in accessing nutritious food and maintaining a healthy diet. Limited financial resources may lead to food insecurity, which is defined as inadequate or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe food (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory, & Singh, 2019).

Food insecurity among older adults can lead to inadequate nutrient intake and an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Furthermore, poor nutrition can weaken the immune system and impair cognitive function, impacting older adults’ overall health and well-being.


The impact of social determinants of health on older adults living in poverty cannot be understated. Income and poverty, limited healthcare access, housing and environment, and nutrition and food insecurity are all critical factors that influence the health outcomes and well-being of this population. Addressing the social determinants of health for older adults living in poverty is essential for promoting healthy aging and achieving equitable health outcomes for all individuals. Interventions and policies should focus on improving access to healthcare, affordable housing, nutritious food, and social support to minimize the adverse effects of poverty on older adults’ health.

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