All About Food (Concluding Comments)

There are always things we don’t want to see or hear, but the more we try to avoid the complexity of the issue, the more confusing it will be. Most of us don’t cope well with things we don’t understand. Sometimes it creates fear and resentment. How can services be provided if people don’t know they exist? How can we promote a good continuum of care if service coordinators and users alike have biased views about certain options?

Every stage along the continuum requires different types of services. Assessment, coordination, and monitoring of services are at the heart of good care management. What we learn from textbooks about food and nutrition services often cover the latter end of the spectrum, but it is not enough just to know about home-delivered meals and congregate meal sites, because food security is as important to older adults who are relatively healthy as it is to those who are homebound and frail.

Promotion of greater variety of choices may appeal to the later-born cohorts in our aging population, but if the reality out there is that of hunger and fulfilling basic needs, we need to allocate the resources there first, before we think of bigger things. Ideally, we would want grocery shopping and food preparation to be more pleasant and convenient for older adults, we would want safer kitchen design for our aging relatives, we would want them to enjoy their food with company…

The bottom line is we can’t forget about the people we are serving and why we are serving them. So, what exactly is our goal?

To feed the aging population? To feed them with nutritious food that meets their dietary restrictions? To meet their cultural, social, and religious food preferences? To facilitate food preparation and promote a sense of control and competence? To preserve the role of food and dining as a source of pleasure?

Every story  has a message. Every storyteller has a goal. I hope I have reached mine.

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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