The Motivations for Food Exchanges in the Lives of Rural Older Adults

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Rural Sociology






Growing older in rural areas can be challenging since access to support from others can be difficult. I conducted an exploratory descriptive study, framed by exchange theory, in rural Appalachian North Carolina in the United States over the course of a year with 16 rural elders with physical limitations and 8 of their supporters to determine how and why they constructed their networks of support. I conducted a total of 50 interviews. Through the analysis of interview data a theme regarding the important role of the exchange of food emerged. For this group of rural elders, food is both given to and received from others. The giving of food to others helps to rebalance exchanges where elders are receiving a good deal of support. In addition, food is exchanged for reasons that move well beyond nutritional needs. Food is used to initiate and support social exchanges, as expressions of kindness and neighborliness, and as a way to share abundance. Results expand on our understanding of the role of food exchanges in the lives of rural elders and expand exchange theory to include the motivations behind exchanges as an additional component of the theory.


Copyright and Open Access: http://sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/issn/0036-0112/