Older Adults Should Have Access to Safe and Adequate Food
American Dietetic Association Publishes New Position Paper on Nutrition Services for Older Adults
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CHICAGO – The American Dietetic Association has published a new position paper focusing on access to safe and adequate food and nutrition services for the increasing number of older adults who receive health care in their homes or communities rather than in nursing homes or other residential facilities.
The position paper is published in the March Journal of the American Dietetic Association and Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. It was written and issued jointly by ADA, the Society for Nutrition Education and the American Society for Nutrition, and represents all three associations' official stance on this health issue:
Given the federal cost containment policy to rebalance long-term care away from nursing homes to home- and community-based services, it is the position of the American Dietetic Association, the American Society for Nutrition and the Society for Nutrition Education that all older adults should have access to food and nutrition programs that ensure the availability of safe, adequate food to promote optimal nutritional status. Appropriate food and nutrition programs include adequately funded food assistance and meal programs, nutrition education, screening, assessment, counseling, therapy, monitoring, evaluation and outcomes documentation to ensure more healthful aging. The growing number of older adults, the health care focus on prevention and the global economic situation accentuate the fundamental need for these programs.
The position and accompanying paper were written by registered dietitians Barbara J. Kamp, adjunct professor at Johnson and Wales University (ADA); Carlene Russell, nutrition program manager at the Iowa Department on Aging (SNE); and Nancy S. Wellman, affiliated faculty at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University (ASN).
The joint ADA, SNE and ASN position paper focuses on access to safe and adequate food for older adults in communities, including issues related to food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition, and food and nutrition programs serving older adults in community settings. According to the authors, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population is age 65 and older. "They are living longer and growing in absolute numbers, with those aged 85 years and older the fastest-growing segment. Projections for 2030 estimate an increase to 72 million or 20 percent of the population."
With rising costs representing a significant factor for older people in making decisions about health care, the authors write that food assistance programs "may help reduce these costs by helping people stay in their homes. The cost of one day in a hospital equals the cost of one year of Older Americans Act Nutrition Program meals....Although skilled nursing facilities provide comprehensive health care services beyond a noon meal...the cost of one month in a nursing home equals that of providing mid-day meals five days a week for about seven years. On average, Medicaid can support three older adults and adults with disabilities in home- and community-based settings for every person in a nursing facility."
The position paper provides an overview of food and nutrition programs, summarizing current features and funding levels of federal food and nutrition assistance programs. It highlights the roles and responsibilities of nutrition practitioners such as registered dietitians in working with older adults; and offers recommendations to promote healthful aging and optimal nutritional status, such as accessing food and nutrition programs and services in home and community services and the availability of a safe, adequate, healthful food supply.
The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org