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Nutrition and Health Promotion in Older Adults


Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2001;56(suppl 2):47-53

This article is part of a Special Issue supplement of Journals of Gerontology entitled “Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life in Older Adults.”

Abstract: During recent decades, the concept of health promotion has become a legitimate part of health care because of the aging of the postwar baby boom generation.  As the population ages, the potential strain on health care systems will increase because the greatest use of health care services occurs during the last years of life. In older adults there are many correctable health favors that can be assessed through screening protocols. Hypertension, cholesterol, hearing, vision, diabetes, and cancer screening are all well integrated into health promotion programs; nutrition promotion programs are not as well integrated. Reluctance to develop health programs for older adults exists because of a perception that they would not follow such plans or change their lifestyles. However, longitudinal studies have shown that health promotion activities extend the number of years of health in older people although the relationship weakens in older age. Changes in diet and exercise patterns are most effective in the prevention of nutrition-related conditions when they are instituted early in life, but posititive effects can occur at any age. If nutritional interventions are instituted early, a substantial reduction in health care expenditures may result from a decrease in the incidence or the delayed onset of these conditions. Changes in behaviors (reducing salt and fat intake) were positively associated with a belief that consuming a healthful diet would contribute to better health. The use of a variety of adult education theories and model will enhance behavior changes that lead to more healthful habits and enable a health educator to be successful in effecting change.

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