Healthy eating is an important component of healthy lifestyles that can help people maintain good health throughout their lives. However, many older persons have limited access to high-quality products and often have harmful dietary habits. In the 1970s, it was acknowledged that older citizens who had unhealthy diets were at high risk of institutionalization (Parikh, Montgomery, & Lynn, 2015). The Older Americans Act (OAA) has been an effective tool to address this problem. Nevertheless, the law can hardly ensure equal access to the services for all those in need due to various limitations. This paper is concerned with nutrition opportunities for older minority people including diverse ethnic groups, LGBT communities, and immigrants.
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The Older Americans Act address multiple needs of older individuals. The OAA Nutrition Program aims to provide nutrition opportunities to older people. The program reached almost 2.5 million people in 2012 (Lloyd & Wellman, 2015). The program involves the provision of congregate and home-delivered meals, which has several positive outcomes for the elderly. Clearly, it helps people maintain healthy eating habits, but it also contributes to their independence and the sense of connectedness (Parikh et al., 2015). Remarkably, Vieira, Vaccaro, Zarini, and Huffman (2017) state that African Americans and Hispanic people are most likely to use the services. The researchers also stress that the people receive these services tend to have significant health issues. Nevertheless, the growing population of older adults, as well as the increase in the array of economically insecure people, suggests that the existing services will soon be far from sufficient. Porter and Cahill (2014) claim that the existing initiatives aimed at meeting the needs of minorities are distributed sporadically across the country. The most pronounced gaps are already in place when it comes to minorities.
Attempts to Incorporate the Solution into Public Policy
It has been found that only a half of states provides home-delivered or congregate meals to minority groups with the focus on their needs. Porter and Cahill (2014) stress that approximately 50% of states have initiatives that involve the provision of culture-specific foods, the collaboration with volunteers and social workers who speak the language of a minority group, the launch of festivities, and so on. When it comes to LGBT populations, only 10% of states served food to this group.
In the states, where the LGBT community is well-presented and protective policies are in place, the number of these incentives is significantly higher than in communities where the number of LGBT representatives is not significant (Porter & Cahill, 2014). Importantly, LGBT populations are less likely to receive common services for the elderly due to their fear of prejudice. As for ethnic minorities and other underprivileged populations, the number of the institutionalized elderly has increased during the past years while the number of white residents of nursing homes is steadily decreasing. All these incentives are implemented under the OAA and minority protective policies. However, there is a particular need in the development of specific policies that will ensure the access of all minority groups to congregate and home-delivered meals. These can be federal and state policies and initiatives.
Major Barrier and Options Being Discussed for Public and Private Funding
The major barrier is the lack of funds that makes many states reluctant to expand the scope of existing policies or introduce new ones. Slightly over 40% of congregate meals and almost a third of home-delivered meals are funded from the federal budget (Lloyd & Wellman, 2015). The rest of the money comes from state budgets, agencies addressing the needs of the elderly, out-of-pocket payments, and donations. It is possible to name such barriers as the lack of the staff that could develop and provide the services addressing particular needs of the vulnerable populations. It is also critical to improve various systemic approaches to the problem through the in-depth research and the development of new programs. However, this obstacle can be easily overcome if proper funding is available. Practitioners and researchers recommend increasing the funding of these programs through the increase in the provision of federal funds (Lloyd & Wellman, 2015; Porter & Cahill, 2014). Parikh et al. (2015) suggest the use of reinvestment and the wise distribution of Medicare funds.
Clearly, federal and state-funding of the services mentioned above should be increased as the number of vulnerable older adults is growing. However, it is also possible to attract more private funding to meet the needs of minority groups. More agencies working with such individuals (ethnic and sexual minorities, the poor) should be encouraged to participate in the initiative. A new policy can establish a number of grants that can be provided to communities and agencies that develop and implement (or intend to start such activities) initiatives including the provision of home-delivered meals, congregate meals, the establishment of celebrations of different holidays and events typical of certain cultures. It is also important to provide grants to facilitate the research of the associated issues. Educational establishments can be encouraged to take a more active part through the introduction of a policy that will imply the provision of some benefits to facilities involved in the activities mentioned above.
Proper nutrition is essential for the elderly whose health starts deteriorating due to the changes taking place in their bodies. However, the needs of some of the most vulnerable groups are still unmet or partially met in many communities. The existing policies and incentives cover only a half of the population in need. The policies involving the provision of grants to entities that will develop and implement various nutrition and minority-centered programs should be introduced.
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Lloyd, J., & Wellman, N. (2015). Older Americans Act nutrition programs: A community-based nutrition program helping older adults remain at home. Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics, 34(2), 90-109.
Parikh, R. B., Montgomery, A., & Lynn, J. (2015). The Older Americans Act at 50 — community-based care in a value-driven era. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373(5), 399-401.
Porter, K., & Cahill, S. (2014). A state-level review of diversity initiatives in congregate meal programs established under the Older Americans Act. Research on Aging, 37(7), 719-740.
Vieira, E., Vaccaro, J., Zarini, G., & Huffman, F. (2017). Health indicators of US older adults who received or did not receive meals funded by the Older Americans Act. Journal of Aging Research, 2017. Web.