Food scientist and BU lecturer in Nutrition, Joanne Holmes, talks to Elder about the importance of socialisation, stimulation and choice to encourage healthy appetite in older people.
“As a nutritionist, I became aware of the fact that there was growing evidence that under-nutrition, commonly known as malnutrition, is a prevalent problem for older people. The figures show that up to about 45 percent of older people living in residential care are at risk of under-nutrition, and for those over 75 years old living on their own, it runs between 35-40 percent,” says Joanne Holmes.
“It was apparent that we were good at monitoring and assessing the fact that people were undernourished – what wasn’t so clear was what was happening to follow that up and move people from being undernourished to an acceptable weight.
“I wanted to understand what and how much people were eating and drinking and whether or not it was the mealtime experience that affected that.
“There are usually a series of events that are linked to undernourishment when someone goes into care. What generally happens is that someone will struggle at home, for one reason or another – perhaps there might be a dementia diagnosis, and they can’t continue to live on their own, or they fall and aren’t able to get around. They eventually end up in hospital, and then in long-term residential care. But once they’re in care, it’s tough to try and get them eating again.
“I come from a food science background, and I think a lot of the work to-date has been done by looking at undernourishment from a clinical point of view. I wanted to come at it from a food angle and look at enhancing the eating experience for those in care.”
Read the full interview here.