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Meeting nutrition needs of an ageing population

Friday, March 31, 2006

Meeting nutrition needs of an ageing population

Nutrition in older people is under the scrutiny of a team of researchers from the Massey University’s Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health.

With the population of older people steadily increasing, there is recognition that little is understood about the factors that could lead to nutrition risk in the future.

The study is part of the Institute’s wider project, entitled Foods for the Future Throughout the Lifecycle, and researchers have identified food and nutrition needs in the aged as a pressing issue. Working with Age Concern, they will be recruiting 80 to 85-year-olds living in North Shore for a pilot study.

It’s estimated that in 20 years 20 per cent of the population will be 65 and over, and the fastest-growing group is forecast to be those over the age of 85.
This shift to a much larger elderly population will bring new health and social issues, say researchers.

Foods for the Future team leader Dr Carol Wham (pictured) says to assist with appropriate strategy development and service delivery, there is a real need now to understand what older people are eating and drinking and how health and social factors are related to nutrition risk.

“There is little known about how older people procure, preparing or consume healthful food,” says Dr Wham. “This study aims to identify factors that may put them at nutritional risk.”

There are nutrition requirements and risks to good nutrition that are specific to the older age group, she says.

“Poor nutrition in older people increases their risk of loss of functional ability and therefore reduces their ability to carry out the activities of daily life and to maintain independence.
“With ageing there is a physiological decline in food intake and the regulation of appetite is fundamentally different.”

The researchers want about 60 people who are receiving some form of nutritional care at home. The pilot study will help determine the methodology to be applied for future research in this project.

Dr Wham says the findings will enable the development of more effective resources and policies for service groups.


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