Title page for ETD etd-31698-172920

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Stewart, Pamela Jr.
Author's Email Address pstewart@vt.edu
URN etd-31698-172920
Title Low-income Older Adults' Needs and Preferences for Nutrition Education
Degree Master of Science
Department Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Brochetti, Denise Committee Chair
Clarke, Mary Committee Member
Cox, Ruby H. Committee Member
  • Elderly
  • Low-income
  • Nutrition Education
  • Focus Groups
Date of Defense 1998-04-03
Availability restricted
Low-income older adults are at high risk for developing diet-related chronic diseases. Nutrition education programs can improve dietary and lifestyle practices, thereby decreasing the incidence of diet-related diseases. Focus groups were conducted to gain insight into the needs and preferences of low-income older adults for nutrition education. Results were made available for use in the Smart Choices Nutrition Education Program at Virginia Tech to aid in the development of nutrition education programs.

Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 35 elderly (28 females; 7 males), ages 55-90+ years, recruited from Congregate Meal Program sites in four regions of Virginia. Seventeen were African American, and 18 were non-Hispanic white. Discussion questions addressed practices for purchasing and preparing foods, importance of food to health, and preferences for education methods. The Determine Your Nutritional Health Checklist of the Nutrition Screening Initiative was used to assess nutritional risk of the elderly adults. Focus group discussions were audio-taped and written transcripts were made for use in data analysis. Themes of the discussions were identified in that analysis and reported in the following broad areas: Factors that Influenced Dietary Practices of Focus Group Participants and Perceived Needs and Preferences of Focus Group Participants for Nutrition Education.

All elderly believed that food was important to their health and were interested in nutrition education. The predominant theme was the influence of a health condition on dietary practices. The elderly made food choices according to dietary restrictions imposed by their health condition. The most prevalent health conditions were chronic diseases, primarily hypertension, diabetes, and hiatal hernia. The majority (32) were at nutritional risk, with a larger number at high risk (20) than at moderate risk (12). Food preferences and sensory attributes of food also were important to them when making food choices. Some reported that convenience was important because they did not want to spend time and effort to purchase and prepare foods. Some also reported experiencing food insecurity, primarily from lack of money. The majority learned about food and cooking from family members, and only a few learned about nutrition and food choices from health professionals. Most wanted information about disease-specific food choices and preparation methods, and preferred to receive this information during group discussions because sharing ideas and opinions was an effective way to learn. Only a few were interested in television programs, while many were interested in written materials. Nutrition education programs for low-income elderly should teach these adults how to choose and prepare foods that are appealing and nutritious, as well as within dietary restrictions imposed by their health conditions. Educators should convey this information to them in group settings and distribute written materials, such as pamphlets and brochures, that outline "how-to" information.

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