Nutrition for Healthy Aging: Policy and Practice at IAGG

ASA’s board chair Bob Blancato will present a symposium at the upcoming International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) 21st World Congress, which takes place July 23-27 in San Francisco. The American Society on Aging is a co-host for this event.

Blancato’s symposium will address the importance of food and nutrition to aging adults as a social and health support for all our ailments. Aging services can provide food as socialization; programs like congregate dining and home-delivered meals constitute wellness checks and stave off depression. Therapeutic nutrition through healthcare providers and increasingly through aging services programs can provide food as medicine to treat and prevent various conditions.

The symposium also will examine U.S. society’s policies and practices around these social and medical nutrition supports. Where are the gaps in these supports? What challenges do nutrition aging services providers face, both in the field and from their for-profit competitors? Why are older adults in the United States food insecure and/or malnourished? What policies can lawmakers support in order to ensure that no older adult in the United States is hungry or malnourished? These questions and more will be discussed during this symposium.

Meredith Ponder, Blancato’s colleague at Matz, Blancato and Associates and Paul Downey of Serving Seniors in San Diego, will join him for this symposium. Ponder will present information on a new multidisciplinary coalition to combat older adult malnutrition, DefeatMalnutrition.Today. The coalition seeks to increase awareness of the problem of older adult malnutrition and to propose policy solutions to combat this growing crisis, and has already taken steps to change policy. This coalition is unique in its multidisciplinary nature, bringing together nutrition, wellness, faith, aging, health, business, and other groups. This is an important health policy opportunity for the gerontology network to become involved in a serious health problem.

Downey will discuss maintaining service provision in an age of austerity. Many aging services providers in the United States today provide an array of services to the community beyond nutrition, including housing, oral health, physical and mental healthcare, legal aid, and education. However, providing this universe of services in an age of lowered federal funding and competition from for-profit healthcare and other services providers can mean that these not-for-profit aging services providers find it difficult to maintain full funding for even their core missions of nutrition and other basic services provision. This presentation will focus on this challenge and will discuss solutions from the field and from local, state and federal policy.

Malnutrition is a nutrition imbalance that affects both overweight and underweight patients: in particular, older adult patients. In the acute care hospital setting, it affects approximately 20 to 60 percent of admitted patients. Nearly 35-50 percent of older residents in long-term care facilities are malnourished. Chronic disease increases the risk of malnutrition in older adults. While older adult malnutrition is a prevalent and potentially costly problem, it is also preventable. Effective and timely screening is essential to help providers make accurate diagnoses, and early nutrition interventions have been shown to substantially reduce readmission rates, as well as complication rates, length of stay, cost of care, and in some cases, mortality.

The U.S. has made great strides in the last few years in older adult nutrition policy, in both regulations and legislation. This presentation will detail these advances and discuss what they mean for older adults. This presentation will discuss the new Administration and its potential goals, as well as the new Congress and potential legislation surrounding senior nutrition, hunger and food insecurity, including the renewals of the Farm Bill and the Older Americans Act. It will also focus on the ways in which gerontologists and others in the field of aging can impact this new policy.

We hope you will join us for this symposium on Tuesday, July 25 from 2:00 to 3:30 PM in Salon 8 at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco.