The Effect of Home-Delivered Meals on the Elderly Population's Health Status
As the elderly population grows at rate never previously seen in human history, there is a greater need than ever to identify and improve upon programs which decrease risk of hospitalization, increase quality of life, and maintain the health of the nation's seniors. Existing research has shown that malnutrition is the strongest indicator of institutionalization in older adults. A series of functional, psychological, social, and economic issues combined with medical issues may contribute to weight loss and poor nutrition in this population. Chronic disease effects 80% of those 65 and older, and 50% of those have been diagnosed with more than one condition which may affect their ability to procure or prepare nutritious food. This text will review the current literature regarding the benefits and shortcomings of the largest home-delivered meal program in the United States (US), Meals on Wheels (MOW). While fruit and vegetable intake were shown to be higher in those who participated in MOW, they were still lower than the recommended intake of 3 servings or more per day. This implies that the program may be successful in increasing diet quality, yet there is still room for improvement. Currently, very limited outcomes research exists for MOW, unlike similar programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Registered Dietitians can provide an invaluable source of information for outcomes research related to home-delivered meals.