Meeting nutritional needs is vital, not only for physical health but also for psychological well-being, autonomy, and quality of life. Although older adults can often be at risk for malnutrition, snacking in between meals is one recommended way for older adults to improve their diet quality and food intake. In order to explore the concept of snacking, a study that earned a Silver 2022 Innovative Research on Aging Award looked to evaluate nursing home residents’ preferences and expectations related to snacking as well as the barriers that prevent them from meeting their snacking needs.
Researchers interviewed a small group of residents about snacking across two time points, for a total of 17 interviews. After these interviews took place, researchers completed a multi-step data analysis process to identify similarities in themes related to residents’ perceptions of snacking. An important overall theme that emerged was the general idea of snacking as a valuable and positive action. Although there was variability in snacking preferences across residents, other overarching themes included snacking as a full sensory experience, the social and emotional value of snacking, and the possible benefit of sensory or textural enhancements of certain snacks, particularly for individuals with specialized dietary needs. Residents also identified barriers preventing them from meeting their snacking needs, such as the accessibility and availability of snacks, a misalignment between resident preferences and snack availability, and a lack of resident and staff knowledge about food choices, health, and facility policy/procedure.
Although the sample size for this study was low, the findings are supported across other literature related to snacking and may have important implications for residential settings. By recognizing the value of snacking and working to remove snacking-related barriers, senior living providers can improve the nutrition and quality of life of their residents. This research and future research in this area are vital to help snacking reach its full potential in improving the lives of senior living residents and the older adult population at large.
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Shune, S., & Barewal, R. (2022). Redefining the value of snacks for nursing home residents: Bridging psychosocial and nutritional needs. Geriatric Nursing, 44, 39–47.