Accepted paper:

The role of meals in creating age-friendly communities for the American and Japanese elderly

Authors:

Mariko Fujita-Sano (Hiroshima University)

Paper short abstract:

Access to meals becomes difficult as health and mobility decline, especially for the elderly living alone. Based on field research conducted in America and Japan, this paper examines various innovative methods by which meal provision can create age-friendly communities.

Paper long abstract:

Access to meals becomes difficult as health and mobility decline, especially for the elderly living alone. In America and Japan, senior centers and their programs in local communities play important roles in engaging the elderly in various activities after they retire. The congregate meal program, one of the most important services provided to the elderly in American senior centers, ensures that the elderly have a nutritionally balanced meal at least once a day. It also helps them maintain independent lives and provides opportunities to socialize with other elderly people. The program also offers meal delivery services for the homebound elderly. Japanese senior centers do not offer regular meal services or home delivery services. However, those who attend such centers often bring snacks, lunches, or sweets to share among themselves. In this way, food facilitates their communication and socialization. One approach to ensure that the elderly, even if not all, have access to food and socialization is through senior centers. However, difficulties in shopping and acquiring daily food remain serious problems for elderly people living in depopulated villages with limited public transportation. Also, many elderly people suffer from chronic illnesses that impose dietary restrictions, which may make meals less enjoyable. This paper examines various innovative methods to help the elderly gain access to meals that are nutritious as well as appetizing and to build new social networks. It is shown that meals are an important vehicle to create age-friendly communities.

panel P027
Considering ideas and practices to create "age-friendly communities" (NME/Commission on Aging and the Aged panel)