Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Marjorie P. Penfield

Committee Members

Jane R. Savage, Ada Marie Campbell, Roger Swagler


The effects of changing food prices on the food habits of the elderly were studied. Information about the socio-cultural characteristics, food-related attitudes, and intervening variables was collected in order to predict food acceptance. Respondents were interviewed twice, seven months apart. Respondents also were asked to record types, amounts, and cost of foods purchased for a four-week period. Data were collected from March 1978 to March 1979.

Sixty-six individuals who were retired, living alone, and 60 years of age and older participated in the interview. Of the initial 66 participants, 52 completed the second interview. The respondents were predominantly female, widowed, white, and Protestant. The years of formal education ranged from 0 to 21. Income ranged from $101-150 per month to over $551. The majority lived in housing complexes for the elderly, either government sponsored or private in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Four food-related attitude factors were found: social-adventuresome, frugal-utilitarian, qualitative-pleasurable, and nutritious-healthful. The respondents on the average reported visiting with their relatives approximately 42 times a year and with their friends over 100 times a year. The old-old (over 70 years of age) were as active as the young-old as measured with a social activity instrument.

The total expenditure per month for food changed from $60.00 to 65.00; $7.00 and 9.00 were spent on food away from home. Although total food expenditures did not differ over time, there was an upward trend. The expenditure by the respondents for food at the grocery store was less than that suggested for the USDA's thrifty food plan. Most of the respondents' food dollars went for purchases of meat and meat substitutes, beverages, vegetables, fruits, and milk and milk products.

The regression models determined in this study explained 38-58% of the variation in food acceptance, defined as food expenditures and expenditures for fruits, meat and meat substitutes, and milk and milk products.

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