Identifying Nutrition Issues Amongst Our Older Generation

July 20, 2022 1:25 am

Recently, McLean Care was fortunate to have the focus of two university students as part of their community nutrition placement, facilitate a small nutrition survey among a handful of our community clients.

Declan and Zoe are fourth year Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics Students from the University of Newcastle who conducted a survey to screen common nutrition issues for our Home and Community Clients.

Declan and Zoe developed a broad survey aimed to identify the common and often unrecognised nutrition issues amongst our older generation. The nutritional status of older clients is often overlooked due to the perception that it is ‘normal’ for older people to eat less or lose weight. Comprising of twenty-one questions, the survey revealed that apart from the impact of food costs, 70% of the clients were living alone and this was a major contributing factor to their eating patterns.

The survey found that only 1 in 5 clients were eating adequate amounts of meat or meat alternatives and dairy foods. Both dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese, custard) and meat/ meat alternative (beef, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, baked beans, lentils, legumes, tofu) contain considerable amounts of protein. This is particularly important during the ageing process as proteins are crucial to maintaining a persons’ strength, energy, and muscle mass.

Dairy is a high source of calcium important for maintaining bone strength. Recommended daily intakes for dairy and meat/meat alternatives increase with age and it was concerning to learn that a sizeable portion of our clients are not consuming enough proteins and dairy in their diet.

The survey observed and confirmed in day-to-day practice; poor intakes of meat, meat alternatives and dairy were attributed to:

  • Rising food costs
  • Difficulties chewing
  • Reduced ability to cook
  • Reduced mobility
  • Loss of a spouse

Additionally, the survey revealed that only 1 in 5 clients were consuming adequate serves of breads and cereals (grains) and vegetables, compared to 3 in 5 consuming adequate intakes of fruit.

Poor intake of fruit, vegetables, and grain-based foods results in reduced intake of fibre and essential vitamins leading to bowel issues and weakened immunity.

As with the meat/meat alternative group, it is common to see a reduced intake of vegetables with reduced meal preparation and the increasing reliance on convenient meal options.

The survey identified almost 70% of the participants would like information on how to ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition for their age. We have included helpful websites below but if you or someone you care for could benefit from seeing a dietitian, please contact your Home Care Coordinator, Doctor, or My Aged Care.