Ageless Agriculture: Healthy Eating

Food Tank highlights 11 projects and programs that target the challenges of an aging population
Healthy Eating
Food Tank

Learn what the healthy food knowledge the elderly can pass on to the younger generation

Food Tank focuses on the challenges — and opportunities — older people have in accessing healthy foods and also how they're sharing their knowledge with younger generations.

The number and proportion of older persons — defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as over 60 years old —are growing in almost all countries. On a worldwide level, the elderly population has grown at an average annual rate of 13 percent. By 2050, the over-65 population will grow to be 1.9 billion people, 840 million of whom will be living low-income countries.

In 2011, nearly 20 percent of Greece’s population was over age 65. In China, 123 million people are over the age of 65. Brazil projects 30 percent of its population will be aged 60 and over by 2050. By 2020, the population in the United States over the age of 65 is expected to increase to about 55 million.

To meet these challenges, many organizations around the world are realizing the importance of making sure that older people are getting the nutrition they need to stay active and healthy for as long as possible. And many older people are staying active in their communities, teaching younger generations about gardening and farming, food culture, and traditional cuisines.

Here are 11 programs and projects aiding older people in appropriate nutritional education, connecting them to kids, or providing access to healthy food and active lifestyles.

1. Danny Woo Garden and Children’s Garden

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the Danny Woo Community Garden was created in 1975 and makes up part of 1.5 acres of the largest green space in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District (C/ID). It consists of 100 plots, tended by 70 elderly Asian gardeners and is an important place where low-income gardeners can socialize, get exercise, and raise vegetables that reflect their cultural foods of choice. In 2009 the Children’s Garden began an intergenerational component which is a unique opportunity for immigrant elderly gardeners, most of whom do not speak English, to both teach and learn from the youth who are learning to garden through the Children’s Garden Educational Program.

2. Fly the Phoenix

This charity has projects in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Peru. Fly the Phoenix believes education and food are basic human rights. Sarah Riggott, CEO of Fly the Phoenix, reported that their older people’s program has been handing out food for some time, but now they are trial-ing veggie gardens. These gardens are in several countries and bring together whole families as well as provide nutrition to elders. Fly the Phoenix strives to keep older people as involved in the community as much as possible.

3. Gift of the Givers Foundation

In South Africa, about 1,000 Limpopo pensioners who care for their orphaned grandchildren received much needed blankets and food parcels from Gift of the Givers. They are the largest food parcel delivery agency in South Africa. This international non-governmental organization (NGO) responds to hunger crisis, feeding elders and their families through a fast, inexpensive, and efficient system of donations.

4. HelpAge International

This global network helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination, and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active, and healthy lives. They provide older people skills to start urban and rural microenterprises and the network also runs socio-legal counseling centers (COSL) in Lima and Ayacucho, Peru, helping teach older people about their rights and helping them access legal benefits and state services to which they are entitled.

5. MyPlate for Older Adults

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The Elder Nutrition and Food Safety (ENAFS) program partnered with faculty and staff at the University of Florida to review and update the 2006 publication, "MyPyramid for Older Adults," to make it consistent with new dietary guidance and the USDA’s new MyPlate. MyPlate for Older Adults was introduced in September 2011 and includes lower calorie levels in the food plan due to the lower caloric needs of elderly. It also includes foods that are easy to purchase, chew/swallow, and/or prepare.