Bringing Older Adults Back to the Dinner Table

Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of human connection, but few realize how a lack of connection affects our daily behaviors, especially for older adults. In fact, a survey from Home Instead, Inc. found that older adults who eat most meals alone are more than twice as likely to be lonely, leading to a poorer diet compared to those who enjoy meals in the company of others.

Additionally, more than 35% of older adults experiencing loneliness and isolation graded their diet as a “C” or below. In turn, 29% described their health as fair or poor. As we begin to gather again in person, Home Instead encourages family and friends to share a meal with older loved ones. Not only will it strengthen relationships, but it likely will impact the quality of food seniors consume.

To improve mealtime habits and promote connection, Home Instead is introducing the Companionship Diet℠. This free program is designed to offer educational resources to make more informed nutritional choices, while demonstrating the health benefits of enjoying meals together.

“It’s no secret that eating a well-balanced diet becomes trickier with age, but the importance of proper nutrition for seniors simply cannot be overstated,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead, Inc. “Reimagine what meals look like by trying new recipes with a variety of ingredients. By preparing and enjoying meals together, you will experience the joys of quality time while also encouraging your loved one to maintain healthy eating habits.”

Included in the Companionship Diet program are recipes, tips and resources designed to inspire and educate seniors and family caregivers on how best to make nutritious choices. Taking the time to plan, prepare, cook and consume meals together is likely more meaningful to the older adults in your life than you may realize.

There are often physical, psychological and situational factors impacting the nutritional intake of older adults, such as health conditions leading to decreased taste, mood variations generating a loss in appetite or fixed incomes causing challenges to afford fresh foods. These factors demonstrate the importance of being there for your loved ones to observe these cues. The combination of nutrition and companionship is a recipe for healthy living. Hogan provides tips on how families can include older adults in mealtime:

  • Schedule regular mealtimes. Plan to get together weekly or monthly to enjoy a meal with older loved ones. Ask your loved one what ingredients they like and what dishes they prefer to involve them at every step. This will help keep seniors engaged and give them something to look forward to.
  • Plan simple and healthy meals. Check in with older adults before dinner and ask them to select a favorite recipe that you could make. Even better, ask them for their favorite childhood foods and incorporate them into mealtime. Meals should be balanced and include grains, fruits and veggies. Canned veggies can still be healthy and are a good alternative if fresh ones aren’t available. Remember to be mindful of portion size with seniors.
  • Involve your loved one in the preparation process. If they are up for it, ask your loved one to help with making the meal. Perhaps they can help mash the potatoes or frost the cake. If your loved one doesn’t want to help with meal preparation, he or she can sit and chat while you’re cooking and help provide instructions or share old family recipes and stories. These moments can serve as valuable bonding time.

Anyone can play a role in ensuring the aging population continues to feel connected as the pandemic wanes. With the Companionship Diet, Home Instead demonstrates the impact personal connections and casual conversations during mealtime can have on the physical and emotional health of older adults.

These resources, and additional information about the Companionship Diet, can be found at http://www.HomeInstead.com/CompanionshipDiet. Or get in touch with your local Home Instead office at homeinstead.com/locations.

ABOUT HOME INSTEAD 

Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska, the Home Instead® franchise network provides personalized care, support and education to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. Today, the network is the world’s leading provider of in-home care services for older adults, with more than 1,200 independently owned and operated franchises that provide nearly 90 million hours of care annually throughout the United States and 13 other countries. Local Home Instead offices employ approximately 100,000 CAREGivers℠ worldwide who provide relationship-based care services that enable older adults to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. Home Instead franchise owners partner with clients and their family members to help meet varied individual needs. Services span the care continuum – from providing personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. Also available are family caregiver education and support resources. Visit HomeInstead.com. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.  Each Home Instead® franchise office is independently owned and operated. Home Instead, Inc. is a subsidiary of Honor Technology, Inc. For more information, visit joinhonor.com.

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