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Food Insecurity in the Elderly

The following excerpts are from a qualitative study by Wolfe et al. that examined the experience of food insecurity in older adults.

"With all of my expenses...sometimes I have to go to bed without eating, I am used to it."

"I buy the medication first. I cook macaroni and put some sauce on it...No protein you know, not enough protein."[1]

The impact of poverty on nutrition is an important issue in every stage of life, and older adults are no exception. In this population, poor nutrition is influenced by more than just low income, and plays a key role in health and well-being.

The Scope of the Problem

The rate of food insecurity in Canadian seniors is 4%, with 3% reporting an altered diet.[2] However, this may be an underestimate since the survey from which this data was obtained asked only whether there was enough money to buy food.[2] As we will see, adequate financial resources are not the only important determinant of nutritional status. Although the prevalence of malnutrition in seniors is low in autonomous, ambulatory individuals, as functional capacity declines, rates of malnutrition increase.[3]

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1. Wolfe, WS, Frongillo, EA, Valois, P. Understanding the experience of food insecurity by elders suggests ways to improve its measurement. The Journal of Nutrition 2003;133:2762-9.

2. Che, J, Chen, J. Food insecurity in Canadian households. Health Reports (Statistics Canada, catalogue 82-003). 2001;12:11-22.

3. Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. Nutrition and healthy aging: Workshop on health aging. 2002. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/seniors-aines/pubs/workshop_healthyaging/nutrition/nutrition1_e.htm. Accessed: August 2005.

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