Aged-care residents that are served more, eat more

Tuesday, 06 October, 2020

Aged-care residents that are served more, eat more

Researchers at the University of South Australia (UniSA) have discovered a simple way for aged-care residents to improve their nutrition intake: increase their meal sizes.

The research team assessed the effectiveness of environmental cues within an aged-care home — music, fragrance and other health information — discovering that if residents were offered larger meals, they would eat more, thereby increasing energy and nutrition levels. The findings are published in the Australasian Marketing Journal.

For each kilojoule increase in served energy, a 0.73 kilojoule increase in consumed energy was observed.

UniSA researcher Hei Tong Lau said that the portion-size effect was a manipulation to test the true effects of extrinsic food cues.

“Our research is focused on improving the nutrition and health status of older Australians living in a residential aged-care facility,” Lau said.

“In Australia, up to 70% of elderly people living in aged-care facilities are suffering from malnutrition, the primary reason for which is inadequate food intake.

“To improve this, we must find ways to encourage older people to eat more. And while there has been a justified focus on the food itself — including look, taste and texture — we have been concentrating on other factors that can improve the food experience, within a real-world aged-care facility.

“While exploring environmental factors that could improve the dining atmosphere, we found that portion size was highly correlated with the amount of food that residents consumed. And, that both music and fragrance could positively influence food consumption, but secondary to portion size, as we did see variances among each individual.”

According to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) and under the Aged Care Quality Standards (effective 2019), aged-care service providers in Australia are required to ensure appropriate nutrition and energy intake for all residents.

Lau said the findings provide valuable insights for aged-care caterers and providers.

“With an ageing population and high levels of malnutrition among aged-care residents, there is a clear need to better understand factors that can influence residents’ food intake,” Lau said.

“Increasing serving sizes may seem like a small step, but for residents who need the nutrition, it’s [a] massive move forward.”

Image credit: © Raths

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