AoA Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of its Successful Nutrition Program
March marks the 40th anniversary of AoA’s Nutrition Program. Programs funded by the Older Americans Act are more important than ever as Americans are living longer than in the past. AoA’s Nutrition Program provides meals and related nutrition services to older Americans in congregate settings, including senior centers. The Program also funds the delivery of meals to homebound older Americans.
In 1972, Congress added the Nutrition Program to the Older Americans Act (OAA). It’s been 40 years since this most visible and popular program funded under the OAA has been implemented throughout the United States and its territories. Since 1972 over 8 billion nutritious meals have been served to older adults in senior or community centers, or delivered to their homes.
From the beginning this program was designed to help reduce hunger and malnutrition. Hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition lead to poorer health outcomes and decreased functionality. This program was designed to increase socialization, not only for congregate participants, but also those who are homebound. Research indicates that social interconnectedness and active social engagement improve health outcomes and quality of life. Adequate quality nutrition is essential for health as well as reducing and managing the risk of chronic disease. Meals are designed to meet the most recent science evidence-based nutrition standards.
This program not only emphasizes access to healthy and appetizing meals, but also nutrition education and counseling to help older adults and their caregivers make informed choices to manage and control their health. Services are successfully targeted to individuals who are lower-income, older, more likely to live alone, be less healthy, more food insecure, more functionally impaired, more likely to be a minority individual, and more likely to live in rural communities.
Good nutrition is extremely important to the ongoing health of older Americans. Healthy meals prevent chronic illness and help older adults maintain their independence and connection to their communities. Looking to the future, the Administration on Aging, State Units on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, and local service providers together will be changing to meet the increasing needs of a larger and more diverse older population; the service system will be more accommodating to choice, be more integrated in health and home and community based service systems and will help keep older adults at home in the community for as long as possible.