"It Just Ain't Like It Used To Be": The Relationship of Food, Culture, & Metabolic Disease in African American Senior Citizens of the South Open Access

Thompson, Keitra L. (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rn301192g?locale=en


African American senior citizens, like any elderly group, have seen their fair share of personal, as well as public triumphs and defeats. As one of the fastest growing populations in America today, African American senior citizens are slowly becoming one of the largest groups dependent on state-funded health care programs and assisted living resources. They are also experiencing high rates of chronic disease and limited resources. Unfortunately, current literature has failed to critically examine the life trajectory of African American senior citizens in relation to dietary patterns, prevalence of chronic disease, and the impact of African American cultural values and traditions. This study has aimed to fulfill the current gap in research by exploring the intersection of food and culture and how it relates to the prevalence of metabolic disease in the African American senior citizen community, through appraising the health beliefs, life choices, dietary patterns, and food accessibility of African American senior citizens located in a low-income residential facility in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta, Georgia. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected on 39 African American senior citizens through surveys and life-history interviews. The results of the study indicate that African American senior citizens living in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta are experiencing limited access to nutrient dense foods due to economic constraints and food availability. They are also overwhelmingly affected by chronic metabolic conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Nonetheless, while they are aware of the commonly defined association between diet and disease, there is a perceived disconnect of how such a relationship has and/or continues to play out in their own lives. Furthermore, the overall life-history of participants reveals that experiences resulting from societal discrimination are most pronounced as a result of age as an elderly member of society than as an African American. Such findings and others revealed throughout the paper, suggest that more analysis and research is crucial to the well-being of all senior citizens in America and particularly to issues of improving medical care, food access and quality, and economic resources for African American senior citizens living in Atlanta, Georgia.

Table of Contents



CHAPTER 1: Introduction & Background...9


Goals of this Project

The Anthropological Connection & Study Rationale

Literature Review

Health Disparities & Metabolic Disease

Dietary Traditions & "Soul Food"

The African American Body & Culture

African American Senior Citizens & Contemporary Diets

Background of Location

Sweet Auburn Avenue

Wheat Street Tower


Study Design

Study Population

Data Collection

Data Analysis

Study Limitations

CHAPTER 2: Southern Experience & Aging...41

Demographics of the Study Population

Southern Roots & Experience

"Now that I'm Older": Family, Successful Aging & Advice for living

Family Roles
Aging Successfully & Advice for living

CHAPTER 3: Food & Culture...55

African American Dietary Traditions Explained

Food Association Results

Shifts in Food Quality

"I eat, what I eat": Dietary Practice Determinants & Favorite Foods

CHAPTER 4: Diet & Disease...68

Diet Composition & Quality

Most Prevalent Chronic Diseases at Wheat Street

Health Beliefs: Can We Say Diet and Disease are Related?

CHAPTER 5: Recommendations & Conclusion...81

Food Justice

Making Chronic Disease Recommendations More Culturally Competent

Concluding Remarks



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