Search our Blog

Search our Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Is an Older Person at Nutritional Risk?

nutrition for older adults

Use the Nutrition Checklist below to find out if your client is at nutritional risk. Give this form to your client or, if appropriate, complete it with your client.

Nutritional Checklist

Read the statements below. Circle the number in the Yes column for those that apply to you (or your client). For each yes answer, score the number in the box. Total the nutritional score.

Statement YES
I have an illness or condition that made me change the kind and/or amount of food I eat. 2
I eat fewer than 2 meals per day. 3
I eat few fruits or vegetables, or milk products. 2
I have 3 or more drinks of beer, liquor, or wine almost every day. 2
I have tooth or mouth problems that make it hard for me to eat. 2
I don’t always have enough money to buy the food I need. 4
I eat alone most of the time. 1
I take 3 or more different prescribed or over-the-counter drugs a day. 1
Without wanting to, I lost or gained 10 or more pounds in the last 6 months. 2
I am not always physically able to shop, cook, and/or feed myself. 2
Total Nutritional Score: _____

Source: Nutrition Screening Initiative

What Does the Nutritional Score Mean?

0 to 2: Good! Recheck in six months.

3 to 5: Moderate nutritional risk. Suggest ways for your client to improve his or her eating habits and lifestyle. A registered dietitian, local office on aging, senior nutrition program, senior center, or health department may be able to help. Recheck the nutritional score in three months.

6 or higher: High nutritional risk. Have your client make an appointment to see a doctor, registered dietitian, or other qualified health or social services professional soon. Have the client take this checklist to the appointment. Tell the client to talk to his or her doctor or other professional about any health problems and ask for help with improving nutritional health.

Note: The nutritional score suggests risk and does not represent a diagnosis of any condition.

Two Federal Programs Help Older Adults Meet Their Nutritional Needs:

Elderly Nutrition Program

The Elderly Nutrition Program, administered by the Administration on Aging (AoA), ensures that older adults have access to adequate nutrition. Services include:

  • Group meals in community settings (e.g., senior centers) five days a week

  • Home-delivered meals (e.g., Meals on Wheels) to homebound older adults five days a week

  • Education to improve health behaviors

  • Nutrition counseling

  • Information and referral to services such as fitness classes and health screenings

Anyone age 60 or older is eligible for services and congregate meals, although the program targets older people with the greatest economic or social need (typically low-income, minority, or rural adults).

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the US Department of Agriculture, was formerly called the Food Stamp Program. It provides help to low-income households to buy staple foods such as breads, meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. SNAP benefits cannot be converted into cash.

Unfortunately, older adults eligible for SNAP benefits are less likely than younger groups to be aware of their eligibility and may be concerned about the stigma of receiving benefits and the embarrassment they might feel in front of grocery staff, other shoppers, family, and friends.

You can allay some of these concerns by letting your older clients know that states issue SNAP benefits through electronic benefit transfer (EBT). Groceries can be paid for using the EBT card at the checkout counter, which is similar to a bank debit card that deducts funds from the SNAP account automatically. This feature reduces the stigma of poverty that older persons may feel by using SNAP benefits.


Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Working with Older Adults: A Professional’s Guide to Contemporary Issues of Aging (2015). Adapted from Maximizing Integrity in Decisions with Seniors. Copyright © 2005 by WebCE LP LLLP. Used with permission of WebCE LP LLLP.