and Older Americans
in the most vulnerable population groups - the young and the old - is
a problem of increasing national concern. Recent studies have shown that
one out of four older Americans suffer from poor nutrition. National nutrition
programs, such as the Elderly Nutrition Program funded by the Administration
on Aging, have a significant role to play in addressing this concern,"
stated Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Assistant Secretary for Aging, Department
of Health and Human Services.
nutrition plays a crucial role in keeping older people healthy and functioning.
Many older Americans, however, aren't eating well. Those who may have
lost their teeth find it difficult to chew. Others may have a hard time
getting to the grocery store, especially if they no longer drive. Still
others simply cannot afford to buy the kind of food that could help keep
them healthy. In fact, for many older people it's not a question of eating
well but of eating at all. Even today, millions of older Americans are
hungry or worried about where their next meal is coming from.
better understand these concerns, Assistant Secretary for Aging, Fernando
M. Torres-Gil has commissioned an issue paper dealing with the serious
problem of malnutrition and older Americans.
Americans with varying degrees of malnutrition are found throughout the
community - in their own homes, in long-term care facilities, and in hospitals.
number of older adults living in their own communities who are malnourished
is in the hundreds of thousands, with one expert estimating over one
million homebound elders may be malnourished.
35 and 50 percent of the older residents of long-term care facilities
many as 65 percent of the elders in hospitals may be malnourished.
older Americans, malnutrition can lead to lost weight and strength, lessened
immunity to disease, confusion and disorientation. Malnutrition exacerbates
frailty and debilitation, causing families and loved ones greater worry
and concern, as well as more time and energy spent in caregiving.
have shown that older adults at nutritional risk tend to make more visits
to physicians, hospitals and emergency rooms. Malnourished patients have
hospital stays nearly twice as long as those of well-nourished patients,
and costs of their stays are $2,000 to $10,000 higher. Malnourished older
patients are readmitted to hospitals more frequently than those who are
reasons older people may eat too little food can be as simple as too little
money or as complex as disease, too many medications and too dependent
on others. Several important factors contributing to inadequate nutritional
intake among older people can be cited.
contributes significantly to malnutrition among older people. As health
care, medication and utility costs increase, many older Americans cut
back on their food budget.
older people, especially the oldest and the poorest, have disabilities
or functional impairments and are unable to shop for groceries or cook
80 percent of those 65 and older suffer from chronic diseases and conditions,
many of which are associated with malnutrition.
adults take more medications than any other age group. Medications can
cause loss of appetite, reduced taste and smell, painful swallowing,
nausea and vomiting, and can affect the absorption and use of nutrients.
half of the nation's low-income elders have lost all of their natural
teeth. Problems with chewing and swallowing have definitely been linked
Administration on Aging through Titles III and VI of the Older Americans
Act funds and administers the largest community nutrition services program
for older Americans, the Elderly Nutrition Program. This program provides
nutrition services including meals, nutrition education, and other services
to mobile and homebound elders 60 years of age and older with a preference
to those in greatest economic and social need.
United States Department of Agriculture funds several different food assistance
programs for the elderly, including the Food Stamp Program, the Nutrition
Program for the Elderly, Commodity Supplemental Food Program-Elderly,
Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Food Distribution on Indian
federally funded programs, experts estimate large numbers of older men
and women are suffering from malnutrition. The issue paper,Food and Nutrition
For Life: Malnutrition and Older Americans, seeks to enhance public understanding
about the magnitude of the elderly malnutrition problem, its causes, its
impact on society, the programs that exist to address it, and the need
for more research and information. For a copy of the issue paper or a
summary, write to:
Aging Information Center
500 E Street, S.W. Suite 910
Washington, D.C. 20024-2710
Telephone: (202) 554-9800
Fax: (202) 554-0695