Objectives: The purpose of this paper is to identify: motivations and perceived barriers associated with food choices made by homebound older adults; whether motivations and perceived barriers vary according to social demographic characteristics; and whether motivations and perceived barriers are associated with dietary quality.
Design: This was an observational study using standard interview methods where participants were administered a questionnaire and completed three 24-hour dietary recalls.
Setting: Participants were interviewed in their homes.
Participants: 185 homebound older adults were included.
Measurement: Motivations were assessed using a modification of The Food Choice Questionnaire and perceived barriers were assessed using the Vailas Food Enjoyment Questionnaire. Participants answered questions regarding social demographic characteristics. Dietary quality measures of adequate intakes of calories, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 were obtained from the three 24-hour dietary recalls.
Results: Mean age was 78.9; 80% were female; and 36% were African American. Key motivations in food choice included sensory appeal, convenience, and price. Key barriers included health, being on a special diet, and being unable to shop. These varied little by social demographics, except for age. Dietary quality varied according to different motivations and barriers.
Conclusion: Food choices are based upon a complex interaction between the social and environmental context, the individual, and the food. Efforts to change eating behaviors, especially community-based interventions involving self-management approaches, must carefully take into account individuals' self-perceived motivations and barriers to food selection. Incorporating foods that are tasty, easy to prepare, inexpensive, and that involve caregivers are critical for successful interventions.