Understanding Mobilities Through Experience: Going Along to get Food with Low-Income Older Adults in Portland, Oregon

Authors: Aliza Tuttle*,
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Food, Food Access, Older Adults, Gerontology, Mobile Methods, Qualitative Methods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8210, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Limited access to food is correlated with a decline in self-rated health in older people (Alley et al., 2009). Although the relationship between income and food access is documented, less is known about the meaning of food access among low-income older adults. A survey of 544 public housing residents in Portland, Oregon, age 55 and older found that 29% were concerned about having enough to eat and 26% ate less than they should because they didn’t have enough money (Carder et al., 2015). This research explored the meaning of food access among older adult residents of public housing (n=20) to identify reasons for food access barriers. Our findings confirm recent studies understanding food access as more nuanced than proximity (Boone-Heinonen et al, 2011, Widener et al, 2013). Participants live within one mile of a large grocery store, however many participants chose to travel farther to get food. Reasons are understood as mobility (challenges and no-transfer bus commuting), preferences (going places with cheaper food, prepared food, or fresher food), coping strategies (utilizing food banks and discount grocery outlets) and food as more than food (shopping as exercise, socialising, or avoiding shopping for mental health or safety reasons).The research highlights the importance of a nuanced approach to accessible food for older adults.

This study used the go-along method, in which the researchers accompanied participants on trips to access food. Researchers mapped routes using GPS, noting transportation types and experiences along the route. This method is seldom used with older adults.

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