Nutrition Education for the Elderly in the US

  • Reicks, Marla (University of Minnesota)
  • Published : 2002.03.01


Eating behavior change as a result of nutrition education interventions as secondary prevention strategies can contribute to an increase in life expectancy and better health for older adults in the United States (U.S.). Many of the chronic conditions prevalent in older adults are modifiable by dietary changes, including heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis. Important demographic observations in the U.S. including the projected large increase in number of older adults by 2030 have implications for nutrition education focus and services. A comprehensive review of nutrition education interventions for older adults in the U.S. published in 1995 identified elements from adult education theories that contribute to the effectiveness of nutrition education. These elements have been the focus of more recent studies with older adults providing additional evidence for relationships between concepts from commonly used behavior change theories and dietary patterns or change. In the U.S, an important program contributing to nutritional adequacy of the diet for older adults is the Elderly Nutrition Program which provides resources for congregate dining and includes a mandatory nutrition education component. Nutrition education is also provided through clinic based programs, and print and broadcast media. Application of the Transtheoretical Model has shown that the level of interest or motivation to comply with dietary guidance may be greater for some older adults due to an increasing burden of chronic disease and poorer quality of life, while others may not feel a need to change lifestyle habits.


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