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Meal Patterns Of Older Adults In Rural Communities: Life Course Analysis And Implications For Undernutrition

Sara A. Quandt, Mara Z. Vitolins, Kathleen M. DeWalt, Gun M. Roos

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Mealfrequency and composition data were collected in home interviews from a random sample of 556 adults age 55 to 96 years from two rural Kentucky counties Only 65% consumed three meals every day, and less than one third regularly snacked. Factor analysis distinguished patterns of hot, cooked meals from cold, uncooked meals at each meal; patterns varied by sociodemographic characteristics. Qualitative data from in-depth interviews with key infor mants provide context for understanding the influence of life course experiences These data show both continutty of local rural meal patterns and changes informants attribute to life course transitions—the most salient related to family, work, and health status. Knowledge of how meals are patterned and how patterns are distributed can inform efforts to correct or prevent nutritional problems, particularly undernutrition. We suggest ways in which these findings can be applied in programs to improve the nutritional status of elders.