Press Release – Age Concern
“We already know that older people who live alone are less likely to eat well” says Liz Baxendine, National President of Age Concern New Zealand. Loneliness Can Lead to Poor Nutrition for Older People
“We already know that older people who live alone are less likely to eat well” says Liz Baxendine, National President of Age Concern New Zealand.
“We also know that having good social networks can protect against a range of health problems like heart disease, memory loss, strokes, depression, and even the common cold. In fact, research has shown that loneliness is as big a health risk as smoking.”
These comments are in response to an Auckland University research which found over half of the older people in the study (aged 80 upwards), were at risk of malnutrition, and that those living alone were most likely not to be eating well.
The new study focuses strongly on older Maori and has found that access to traditional foods is one important issue for this group. For the general population, the Ministry of Health ‘Food and nutrition guidelines for healthy older people’ (2010), already tell us that losing social networks can make people less motivated to eat the amount and quality of food that they need.
“The important thing is to do something about it,” advises Mrs Baxendine.
The Ministry of Health ‘Eating well for health older people’ pamphlet tells people that meals may be more enjoyable if they invite family or friends to share them.
“Whilst this is a great idea, and many older people do enjoy entertaining, some have very thin social networks due to bereavement and other factors, and some are living on very restricted incomes. If you live on New Zealand Super alone, it’s hard to afford the basics, and feeding other people can be a financial stress,” Liz Baxendine commented.
She also advises older people who feel isolated or lonely to call their local Age Concern. “Age Concerns offer a range of services and activities to help people to get together, to enjoy company, activities, and food. Many Age Concerns offer the “Accredited Visiting Service’ through which older people are introduced to trained, caring volunteers, who can visit them at home, or help them to get out and about in the community.
Some Age Concerns also offer other services that can help people to eat well, such as shopper services or ‘Senior chef’, a programme through which older people learn cooking skills, share meals, and get to know one another.
To find out what’s available in your area, contact your local Age Concern.