Boyer, K and Herne, KE and Orpin, P, Food for thought: Eating Well, eating Socially, Australian Journal on Ageing: Special Issue - Abstracts for 43rd National Conference of the Australian Association of Gerontology, 17-19 November 2010, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 4. (2010) [Conference Extract]
Background: Together with partners from HACC and State Government nutrition leaders, our Healthy Eating for Healthy Ageing research team in rural Tasmania has explored consumer and provider perspectives of government meal services; healthy eating opportunities and infrastructure in a rural community and localised initiative in other settings (national and international).
Findings: Our studies show that present approaches to nutrition for older community-living people-both Government funded and community based-often lose sight of the social dimensions of food consumption. Policy approaches and models for service delivery tend to focus on narrow and relatively inflexible models and structures, which tend to separate healthy and nutritional eating programs from social programs of which food is a a part. Research, on the other hand, indicates a strong correlation for older people between eating in a social setting and healthy food intake. Our research also indicates that a single model or approach is unlikely to suit all communities, and all older people in those communities. Rather it suggests that what is needed is a community development approach which can be flexibly adjusted to 'fit' with local needs, but underpinned by the principle that, for most older people, social eating has the potential to address both social isolation and nutritional risk.
Agenda for the Future: The 'men' of approaches we seek to explore in future action research approaches include reform of Meals on Wheels models to add or enhance a social eating dimension; lunch clubs, which can integrate with eating with other social activities such as bridge or scrabble clubs; community facilitation through budget-holding, of social eating opportunities to be integrated with community activities; cafe and restaurant vouchers to help older people eat with family and friends; and gardening and cooking support - food from back yard to plate.