I’ve just been listening to a talk on the need for older people to be aware of what we are eating in terms of the amount of food we eat and the type. A horror statistic was that of people going into what was called acute care (meaning hospitals) only 12% were well nourished. Of those going into sub-acute care (which seemed to be nursing homes etc.) only 16% were well nourished. What I hadn’t realised was that as we get older our bodies forget to tell us that we are hungry, or else tell us that we are not hungry just yet when in fact we should be eating. No matter how well we look after other aspects of our lives, such as keeping our bodies fit through exercise and our minds active through being involved in something, if we are not aware of this failing of this aspect of part of the mechanism of our bodies then everything we are trying to achieve can come unstuck.

Worse still we are told that we don’t need any extra salt in our diets (there is already enough in processed food, including bread) and that we should reduce our sugar intake: lack of both of these may make our food taste bland, particularly as we lose our sense of taste. Add to that people who find difficulty shopping through lack of physical ability or money, and the problem grows. Men in particular who never learned to cook who lose their wives add to those disadvantaged in this area.

All these problems should be being aired by the two groups who claim to represent older people (and get major funding to do so) but who don’t employ older people who would be able to alert them to these situations. Those of us older people who are able to speak out don’t have access to the type of publicity that these associations have access to so problems such as those listed above aren’t made public.

People in nursing homes are in an even worse situation as they rarely have the power to do anything about it. Even if a lot of time and research goes in to providing good, appetising food, which I’m sure a lot of good aged care providers do, I wonder if any note is taken of what isn’t eaten, just left on the plate. Are they aware that for many older people their bodies are failing to tell them that they are hungry even when the food is placed in front of them?

Issues like these require publicity so that older people are made aware of them. Failure to do so is costing us money as people who are not well nourished end up spending more time in hospital when they have to go there than those who are aware of good eating. Bon appetite!