While good nutrition and moderate physical activity can promote health and delay disability in older adults, most do not follow dietary recommendations, and fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption remains low. Several studies have indicated that older adults can increase fruit and vegetable intakes through nutrition education. Additional and innovative efforts are needed, however, to make progress toward achieving national guidelines in diverse populations of older adults. Increasingly, the community environment is recognized as an important factor in facilitating improved dietary intakes and physical activity. Studies of the 'built environment' show that sidewalks, bike paths, parks, safe neighborhoods and other environmental facilitators of physical activity may be useful in promoting increased walking and other activities in youth and adults.
Similarly, a food environment with availability of affordable and healthful foods in grocery stores, schools, work sites, farmers' markets, gardens, and other community venues may also promote improved dietary behaviors in diverse adults. It is unclear, however, if these same recommendations would promote healthful eating and physical activities in older adults. Little work has been done to consider whether the type of physical environment needed to promote improved dietary behaviors in families and children will also be effective in older adults, or if modified recommendations are needed. Information gathered from the results of these research projects will assist nutrition professionals in designing effective interventions for older adults emphasizing the need for fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet and based on factors relevant to them. Results will also be used to design community-wide food and environmental policies to promote improved plant food intake and physical activity among older adults.