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Nutrition Education for Older Adults in Congregate and Home-Delivered Meal Sites: What is Taught, What do We Know, and Where Do We Go?

Riccardo, Christina

It is expected that by 2030, nearly 21% of the population will consist of older adults, aged 65 years and older. Those who reach 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19 years. Adequate nutrition is essential to health and quality of life, especially for older adults. Congregate and home-delivered meal programs are an ideal setting in which to provide nutrition education for older adults that can lead to increases in successful aging.

This cross-sectional study involved development and distribution of a novel survey for nutrition educators working with congregate and home-delivered meal programs. The purpose of this study was to describe the type and frequency of nutrition education provided by nutrition educators at congregate and home-delivered meal sites, whether lessons are behaviorally focused and theory-based, and which educator factors influence theory-based, behaviorally focused nutrition education score. The researcher also sought to examine if education sessions were being evaluated for effectiveness, if malnutrition was playing a role in nutrition education, whether state policies impact nutrition education, and if differences in nutrition education exist between dietetic and non-dietetic health professionals.

Dietetic professionals (n = 122) are conducting more theory-based, behaviorally focused nutrition education (TB-BF-NE) than non-dietetic professionals (n = 139)

(p < 0.001). A regression analysis showed that the educator factors predicting TB-BF-NE were number of topics taught, group size, length of session, and conducting evaluation

(R2 = .518, p < 0.001). State policies on dietetic oversight did not appear to have an impact. Educators reported malnutrition was a major issue for older adults but did not feel they had the tools to screen for or address malnutrition. The most common topics for nutrition education were food safety, healthy eating, and diabetes; the most common delivery method was handouts.

Because this is the first study of its kind, further exploration is indicated. Nutrition educators working with congregate and home-delivered meal participants need to be better trained on providing theory-based and behaviorally focused nutrition education, conducting evaluations, and finding materials and evidence-based lessons for older adults. Better training can also help educators implement more interactive lessons that will maintain the attention of the older adults they serve.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Koch, Pamela Ann
Contento, Isobel R.
Degree
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018