An average of 17% of people in care institutions are malnourished, as are a staggering 25% of hospital patients. Malnourishment is often spotted and treated too late. The consequences of malnourishment among elderly people can be serious: slower recovery from illness or operations, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of complications. The result can be a negative health spiral including longer hospital admissions and a need for more medication and more complex care.
Over the next few decades, the number of over-sixty-fives in the Netherlands is set to rise. The resulting increased demand for care will steadily become more difficult to meet, both in financial and practical terms. It therefore makes sense to encourage the elderly to be independent for as long as they can. ‘Food and the Elderly’ is a research project being carried out by Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research. It aims to come up with products and meal concepts that will help to improve the health and welfare of elderly people so that this growing group of consumers can stand on their own two feet (both physically and economically) for as long as possible.
Cater with Care
This year, the Gelderse Vallei Food Alliance (a partnership between Wageningen University and the Gelderse Vallei Hospital) joined parties including ‘Food and the Elderly’ to launch a joint project entitled ‘Cater with Care’ (running until 2015). Cater with Care develops and tests fortified food products that can be eaten as part of a normal diet in an attempt to improve the health of elderly people and patients.
The unique set-up of the Cater with Care consortium* allows scientifically reliable knowledge to be turned into optimum food products. The companies and knowledge institutes taking part share information about target groups, their nutritional requirements and possible solutions to malnourishment. The companies will be exploring ways of improving existing foods and developing new, tasty products with high nutritional value. Various studies will examine the effects on consumption, acceptance, quality of life and nutritional status. The study will result in a more varied range of tasty, effective products and new services to help improve the health of patients and the elderly, both at home and in care institutions and hospitals.
Cater with Care will develop a varied range of tasty and fortified food products in order to safeguard nutritional status and prevent malnourishment. The range will enable the elderly and patients to make their own choices while getting all the nourishment they need. The products will be produced to correspond with the needs (clinical and otherwise) of the patient and fit in with a regular diet, which sets them apart from products and services currently available on the market.
Genieten aan Tafel and SenTo
SenTo and Genieten aan Tafel are two other initiatives recently set up by Food and the Elderly. The key question involved in the Genieten aan Tafel (Enjoying your Meal) project is whether new products, meal concepts and a better meal-time atmosphere have a discernible impact on the health and welfare of elderly people in care institutions.
Changes in dietary requirements begin long before people reach 65. A taste panel known as SenTo has been installed to provide more data on this subject. More than 700 elderly people between the ages of 55 and 85 have now joined the panel. The taste and smell profile of most of these people has already been recorded so that a distinction can be made between those who still have a strong sense of taste and smell and those who do not. The research is looking into appreciation of new products, as well as meals and meal-time concepts.
Better products for the elderly
Food and the Elderly focuses on improving the quality of food, as well as improving the range of choices in good-quality food. On the one hand, this will help to improve the quality of life (health, independence, influence) and reduce future demand for care. On the other hand, it will lead to new food products, food concepts and logistic services, resulting in added value for the elderly, for society as a whole and for the business sector.
* The partners in the Cater with Care consortium are: Carezzo, Heinz, Pure4You, Sodexo, Stichting Promotie Kalfsvlees (Veal Promotion Foundation) and NIZO food research. Cater with Care is partially funded by the ERDF.
Unit: Food and Biobased Research
Contact Herman Peppelenbos Fresh Food and Chains Business Card