Assisted-living elderly and the mealtime experience

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Authors: Mahadevan, M., Hartwell, H.J., Feldman, C.H., Ruzsilla, J.A. and Raines, E.R.

Journal: Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics

Volume: 27

Issue: 2

Pages: 152-161

eISSN: 1365-277X

ISSN: 0952-3871

DOI: 10.1111/jhn.12095

Background: Although there is increasing evidence of barriers to nutritional health among elderly assisted-living residents, there has not been the same emphasis when examining the ways in which these individuals experience their mealtimes, as well as the factors that they perceive as contributing to their overall sense of health and well-being. Mealtimes may be disregarded as being particularly unimportant or hurried and overlooked, especially for those residents who may be lonely and have feelings of isolation, ultimately leading to a reduced food intake and poor nutrition. Methods: A convenience sample of 38 men and women, aged ≥65 years, were selected from four assisted-living facilities in and around Montclair, NJ, USA, to participate in focus group discussions. Data were analysed using content analysis procedures. Results: Participants described their experiences of mealtimes, and the factors contributing to an overall sense of well-being during these occasions. The ability to make healthy food choices, socialise, interact with staff, friends and family members, and enjoy a tasty meal in a warm and inviting dining environment, may provide a dignity that is unmatched by other services. Conclusions: The findings of the present study highlight the importance of maintaining the health of elderly assisted-living residents through strategies that enhance their mealtime experiences. Listening to the food voice of elderly through research such as that carried out in the present study will help policy makers develop a plan that will effectively deal with systemic barriers prevalent in these facilities, and incorporate strategies to motivate and encourage their residents to increase their food intake and improve their health and well-being. © 2013 The British Dietetic Association Ltd.

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