Abstract

Studies of the nutritional status of older adults (by marital status)and of older women recently widowed suggest that widows are nutritionallyvulnerable. Yet few studies have examined nutrition- related behaviorsamong widows to see why this is true. We conceptualize these behaviors asnutritional self-management strategies, encompassing behaviors related toobtaining food, consuming it, and maintaining food security. Data come fromin-depth interviews conducted with 64 widowed women age 70+ in rural NorthCarolina (23 African American, 24 European American, 17 Native American).Transcripts were coded and analyzed using a systematic text-analysisprocedure. Length of widowhood ranged from less than 1 year to 39 years.Themes identified in recent widows' interviews and corroborated in thosewidowed longer indicate that there are varied responses to widowhood. Somemay have a positive impact on nutritional strategies (e.g., following owndietary needs), but most are likely to be negative (e.g., meal skipping,reduced home food production, less dietary variety). Rural communities needto develop ways to identify such widows and assist them in findingacceptable ways to meet nutritional needs.