Accessing Nutritious Food: The Realities of Lone Senior Women in Urban Nova Scotia

Thumbnail Image
Green, Rebecca
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This is the first qualitative study in Canada specifically focused on food insecurity in the senior population. Food insecurity is associated with poverty, increased risk of chronic disease, and poor physical and mental health. With the Canadian population steadily aging, and food security being recognized as one of the social determinants of health, it is imperative decision makers understand how food insecurity affects the growing number of senior citizens so that appropriate programs and policies can be implemented to ensure access to food for this vulnerable population. This thesis had three research objectives, to 1) explore how lower income senior women living alone in urban HRM experience food insecurity and uncover the meanings embedded in their experiences; 2) discover participant- and researcher-identified enablers and barriers to accessing nutritious foods; and, 3) explore how accurately hypothetical household scenarios detailing senior’s public pension incomes and monthly expenses to assess the affordability of a nutritious diet reflects the realities of the participants. To address the above objectives, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and data were managed using NVIVO 7 software. The data were analyzed using a phenomenological approach to arrive at a structural description of the experience of food insecurity and expose the underlying and precipitating factors that account for what is being experienced. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory was used to examine the environment shaping the seniors’ lives at various levels of influence. Eight women meeting study criteria (over 65 years of age, living alone in Halifax Regional Municipality and in receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)) were interviewed to inform the results of this study. These women were recruited using sitebased recruitment methods through community organizations and a governmental housing program. All women rented their dwellings and seven lived in income-geared housing. Four of the women received a personal pension from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) while two received a survivor’s benefit. Only one woman reported income from a private pension. Seven themes emerged as the women talked about their experiences with accessing food, including: 1) World View, 2) Health and Health Problems, 3) Use of Community Programs, 4) Transportation, 5) Adequacy of Income, 6) Other Food Management Strategies and, 7) Availability of Family & Friends. World view and health appeared to have the most influencial role on their food security status. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory provided a model to examine the enablers and barriers to accessing food in relation to the fiver layers of the environment (micro-, meso-, exo-, macro- and chronosystems) influencing the participants’ individual food-related behaviours. Enablers and barriers were both participant and researcher identified
Poverty , Women , Single women , Halifax , Nova Scotia , Nutrition , Elderly Women , Older women