Research in Brief

Improving Meal Care Services for Community-dwelling Older Persons by Way of Improving the Competence of the Eldercare Workforce

  • Author

    Kim, Jeongseon

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The National Survey of the Living Conditions and Welfare Needs of Older Koreans finds that in 2020, 84 percent of those 65 and older had one or more chronic conditions and 54.9 percent had multiple chronic conditions. According to a 2021 report by the National Health Insurance Service, health expenditure on people 65 and older accounted in 2020 for 43.1 percent of total health expenditure.
Health is a key determinant of quality of life in older persons, for whom dietary conditions can be a direct effect on their health. The current trend is such that, with the rapid rise of the nuclear family, older persons are increasingly living on their own, apart from their adult children. Older adults who have no adult children around to prepare meals for them may suffer a deterioration in their dietary quality or even nutritional deficiency.
Various elder meal programs have been piloted of late in Korea, following the government’s announcement in November 2018 of the Integrated Community Care Initiative. Some of these meal care programs, implemented as part of the Community Social Service Investment Project and in conjunction with the Community Care Initiative, have been delivered to people 65 and older with less than 160 percent of the standard median income, during the one-year period between July 2020 and June 2021 in four municipalities. In these programs, dieticians examined the dietary habits and health status of the participating older persons, then offered them group meals or home-delivered meals 3 to 5 times a week. Some older persons who had difficulty with mastication were offered, via home delivery, fully-cooked consistency-modified food including liquidized meals. In the same year, as part of its Integrated Community Care Initiative, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has implemented meal care programs for older adults living in Busan and Jeju. There is also an “nutritious meal” delivery program, which, ongoing since last year in Chuncheon City and Hwaseong City and carried out by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, with its target beneficiaries selected based not so much on income criteria as on health status and dietary needs, is aimed at helping older adults prevent declines in bodily functions and maintain healthy-living capability.


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