Community-residing older adults benefit from food and nutrition programs

Older adults benefit from participating in community-based food and nutrition programs that enable them to remain healthy and independent, according to an updated position paper by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.

According to the position paper "Food and Nutrition Programs for Community-Residing Older Adults," published in the July issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior that older adults should have access to evidence-based food and nutrition programs that ensure the availability of safe and adequate food to promote optimal nutrition, health, functionality, and quality of life. Registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered, in partnership with other practitioners and nutrition educators, should be actively involved in programs that provide coordinated services between the community and health care systems that include regular monitoring and evaluation of programming outcomes. The rapidly growing older population, increased demand for integrated continuous support systems, and rising cost of health care underscore the need for these programs.

This paper updates a 2009 position paper, reaffirmed in 2013, by incorporating new statistics on older adults, the effects of changes in health care policy and advances in measuring health care outcomes.

"By 2030, it is projected there will be 74 million older adults, accounting for 21 percent of the U.S. population," according to the position paper. "While 60 percent of older adults manage two or more chronic health conditions, many underuse preventive services…. Providing better coordinated community and home-based services may reduce spending growth in the long-term care sector for those older adults living in the community."

The intended outcomes of community food and nutrition programs include improving overall nutrition, decreasing the risk of malnutrition, preventing or reversing unintended weight loss, improving food security and decreasing admissions and readmissions to health care facilities, according to the position paper.

Registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetic technicians, registered play an integral role in coordinating efforts among all community entities, according to the authors.

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