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Authors

  1. Bergia, Robert E. III MS
  2. Jun, Shinyoung MPH
  3. Byers, Adam BS
  4. Savaiano, Dennis PhD

Abstract

Older adults want to "age in place," but the currently fragmented and inadequate nutrition assistance environment is at odds with this goal. Given the substantial gap between resources needed to make the "Aging in Place" dream a reality and current level of support, investigation into mechanisms of an overhaul to nutrition assistance for older adults is warranted. In this article, we assess the need for comprehensive nutrition support for older adults, review the current federal nutrition support, provide rationales for legislation supporting nutrition support integration and expansion (with an emphasis on home nutrition support for older adults), and introduce operational approaches for an expansion. Older adults face unique challenges to maintaining adequate nutrition. Upwards of 19% of older adults with low incomes (those living in households below 185% of the poverty threshold) were food insecure, and approximately 90% of these individuals did not receive meal services. Fragmentation of federal services across the US Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, mobility, technology use, and stigma surrounding assistance programs all but guarantee that older adults do not derive maximal benefit from available services. In light of the complementary nature of different nutrition policies and programs, leading policy experts have called for integrated, multicomponent government strategies that adapt and streamline existing structures and systems. We urge the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct pilot studies granting states joint waiver authority for SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program. Leveraging resources and information across parallel programs can allow more older adults to manifest their right to "age in place."