An Altered Eating Experience: Attitudes Toward Feeding Assistance Among Younger and Older Adults

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Feeding assistance is commonly used to alleviate mealtime difficulties and decrease risk. It is unclear how to best support the transition from independence to assisted feeding across the lifespan. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine attitudes toward feeding assistance among healthy younger and older adults.


Qualitative study.


A total of 17 younger and 19 older adults were interviewed following a simulated feeding (assisted and self-feeding) experience. Comments were coded for sensation (physical/emotional) and sentiment (positive/negative/neutral) and analyzed for common themes.


All participants commented primarily on the physical aspects of feeding assistance. Younger adults were more likely than older adults to make negative comments, particularly as related to the loss of independence. All participants indicated difficulties/differences with the feeding process stemming from their own preferences not being realized.

Conclusions/Clinical Relevance

Although all adults value independence in the aging process, younger adults may more negatively view receiving feeding assistance as a loss of independence. This suggests the need to redefine autonomy in the presence of increased dependence. It is also necessary to individualize the feeding process in order to incorporate individual identity into eating. Promoting interdependence as the consequence of feeding assistance, rather than dependence, can help support this time of transition and promote patient well-being.

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