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Providing Healthy and Safe Foods as We Age


The 65+ population is expected to double over the next twenty years. As this group ages, the likelihood of malnutrition will significantly increase if careful attention is not provided to their nutritional needs. This workshop summary report and online e-book by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies Food and Nutrition Board explores issues related to food and aging as discussed during a day and a half workshop in October 2009 by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Food Forum. Understanding the future challenges of “providing healthy and safe foods to aging populations” will be important for community planners and local governments seeking to create vibrant communities as health issues increase with aging.

Key Points

The workshop was organized into six sessions: 1) size and demographics of aging populations, 2) changes in physiology with age, 3) food safety concerns for aging populations, 4) nutrition concerns for aging populations, 5) communicating with aging populations, and 6) future challenges and solutions to providing healthy and safe foods to aging populations (page 2). Each section of the report provides a narrative full of statistical information for the community planner. The online format is especially user-friendly because the planner can get to each section of the report easily and print as needed.

Highlighted research findings include:

  1. Size and demographics of aging populations: Projected growth for the 85+ population has caught demographers off-guard. People are living longer than previously anticipated. The report also outlines specific geographical locations within states that the aging population is exploding, as well as ethnic and immigrant demographics as they pertain to aging.
  2. Changes in physiology with age: Though gastrointestinal systems (GI) rarely change with aging, the complications that accompany chronic diseases are often associated with diet. Oral health, for example, declines as we age and then impacts the GI system. The bulk of this section discusses infectious diseases and their relationship with diet and aging.
  3. Food safety concerns for aging population: Certain “food borne pathogens” are associated with health risk among the older populations. This section explores how to identify specific pathogens like Listeria that put the aging at risk, as well as solutions for increasing food safety.
  4. Nutrition concerns for aging populations: Containing modified food guide pyramids for the aging, caloric restrictions, and malnutrition concerns, this section examines those diet and nutrient issues that can keep older adults healthy.
  5. Communicating with aging populations: The question, “How can we change the dietary behaviors of older adults?” is explored thoroughly in the workshop and motivations and concerns that accompany changes in perception, marketing and appeal are also discussed.
  6. Future challenges and solutions: This section addresses issues that need further exploration or collaboration and those challenges associated with them.

How to Use

Very few workshop summaries are written with such detail, breadth of information, and practical insight. Community planners can utilize all six sections in local planning efforts. This is an excellent resource for planning and implementing community initiatives and programs today that will foster greater health awareness tomorrow.

View the website: Providing Healthy and Safe Foods as We Age

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