Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Ann M. Mayo, RN, DNSc, FAAN, Professor, Chair; Eileen K. Fry-Bowers, PhD, JD, RN, CPNP, FAAN, Member; Jacqueline F. Close, PhD, APRN, Member


Appetite, Childhood, Eating, Lifespan, Older Adults, Qualitative


Purpose: The purpose of this descriptive qualitative study was to explore what factors may have influenced the transition of an individual older adult’s eating practices over a lifespan and the impact participants perceived those factors currently had upon their nutritional health in older adulthood.

Background: The older adult population is recognized as one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. One of many growing concerns for this population is the impact of dietary practices on the morbidity and mortality of this aging population. There is limited research to date that has explored the transitioning of appetite and eating practices across the lifespan of the older adult.

Method: This study was informed by the method of qualitative description. Extensive semi-structured interviews were conducted via telephone and transcribed. All data collected were analyzed utilizing the process of constant comparative analysis in the identification of similar phrases, patterns, and relationships, ultimately leading to thematic and categorical construct.

Findings: Ten participants were recruited and participated in individual telephone interviews. There were three major themes that emerged from the data analysis: (a) Great Beginnings, (b) Developing Independence, and (c) Inverse Relationship (age and appetite); and three corresponding categories emerged within each of the three major themes. Moreover, these themes and categories emphasized personal life altering events (i.e., moving out of the childhood home, marriage, pregnancy, bereavement, and the COVID-19 pandemic), often leading to changes noted in eating practices of several participants. Additionally, the three major themes and their relative categories also support the perception that advancing physiological age, diagnoses of chronic disease, and occurrence of certain life-altering events have significant influence on many of the transitional eating practices observed in older adults.

Implications for Research: The results of this study may help in the design of future individualized interventions to promote healthy eating habits observed in older adulthood. However, it is important to continue to study how unique life experiences contribute to changing eating practices throughout the lifespan.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access