Jack is a 71 year old retired school teacher. He is divorced and lives alone in an apartment, but has many friends in the building with whom he socializes often. Jack’s mobility is limited by arthritis in his hips and knees. He is no longer able to drive and relies on his daughter or a friend for transportation. His financial situation is relatively good, but when unexpected expenses arise, he sometimes compromises on the quality or amount of food he buys in order to make ends meet.
Jack usually enjoys preparing food and has a good appetite. Sometimes when he is feeling particularly tired, he doesn’t feel like preparing meals, but usually does not go without eating. Jack wears dentures, but has no problems chewing or swallowing his food.
Jack’s situation illustrates that income, although important, is not the only determinant of nutritional status in older adults. There are many factors that contribute to the risk of seniors not accessing adequate or appropriate food:
Lack of money for food
Lack of food because of transportation limitations
Not enough food due to health or mobility limitations
Lack of motivation to cook and eat
In addition, confusion and memory loss may make it difficult for older adults to remember what, when and how much they have eaten and depression may decrease appetite. A healthy mouth, teeth and gums are also important for proper eating and missing teeth and ill-fitting dentures may contribute to poor nutrition. The ability to chew and swallow food is another important consideration.
When there has been a clear division of domestic responsibilities along gender lines, the death or illness of a spouse can create significant problems, for both men and women.