Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) among eligible adults 60 and older is much lower than among the younger population, and rates continue to decline throughout the life course while at the same time the risk of cognitive impairment increases. Due to the high administrative burden associated with SNAP eligibility processes, cognitive impairment may be associated with low uptake of SNAP among the low-income older adult population, particularly among more socially disadvantaged groups (females, Blacks, and those living alone). We provide new evidence that changes in cognitive functioning are associated with reductions in the probability of SNAP take-up among eligible older adults.
Using panel data from the Health and Retirement Study, we estimate linear probability fixed-effects models to assess the effect of cognitive decline on the likelihood of SNAP participation among eligible adults aged 60 and above, controlling for observed characteristics that change over time as well as individual, time, and state fixed effects.
Reduced levels of cognitive functioning that rise to the classification of dementia were strongly associated with reductions in the probability of SNAP take-up among eligible older adults. Results were particularly salient for females and those living alone.
One barrier to SNAP take-up among older adults may be cognitive impairment with the size of effect differing by gender and living arrangement. Policymakers may want to consider initiatives to increase SNAP participation among older adults, including a focus on further simplification of eligibility and recertification processes that reduce administrative burden.