Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Orange, J.B.


Global life expectancy has increased steadily over the past century and is projected to continue increasing. Life expectancy increases are co-occurring with a reduction of fertility rates in many economically developed countries, which is resulting in an aging population, meaning that the proportion of older adults within the total world population will continue to increase. This is of particular concern as there is a rise of chronic neurodegenerative diseases among older adults, such as dementia, where the number of global deaths more than doubled since the turn of the century, making dementia the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. Dementia is a syndrome in which there are persistent and progressive declines in memory, language and communication, personality, visuospatial skills and other cognitive processes such as executive functions. Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) and vascular dementia (VaD) are the two most commonly occurring dementias worldwide. The simultaneous occurrence of both types of dementia in one individual is called mixed dementia (MD). There is no cure for any form of dementia, and great emphasis has been placed on prevention instead. A common preventive approach is through dietary modification, with the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) gaining significant research interest over the past half century due to its numerous health benefits, including its protective effects against dementia. The purpose of this component mixed-methods dissertation research was to compare the difference of the diets of Canadian older adults (CanDi) against known estimates of the MeDi and examine the extent of MeDi familiarity among Canadian older adults and their willingness to adopt such a diet into their lifestyle. An estimate of the CanDi revealed that the primary difference between it and the MeDi is in the lower daily consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids. The adoption and adherence to the MeDi requires a change in an individual’s behaviour i and thinking. Many of the participants reported not knowing about how to change effectively their habits. It is recommended that consideration be given to issues about behaviour change when promoting preventive approaches to health such as the MeDi. Furthermore, extrinsic barriers to health such as lower socioeconomic status also should be considered when making policy decisions. It is important for decision makers not to confuse extrinsic factors with intrinsic factors, as poor lifestyle choices (e.g., a poor diet) are not necessarily an indication of a poor personal choice.