Friendship and social contacts contribute to good health among the elderly, according to a Texas A&M sociologist.

"A number of the elderly end up in nursing homes, and their social network contains very few people," says Dr. William McIntosh, who studies the influence of social support systems on elderly diet.People with high-quality social relationships take better care of themselves, he says, adding that those who are isolated tend to care less about what they eat.

"These relationships affect the quality of diet, and therefore affect nutritional health," McIntosh says. "We need to remind people that their elderly friends and relatives shouldn't be isolated."

The study points to the merits of such community food programs as Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.