Factors identified in food for the elderly, expert

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th April 2016

ElderlyAustralia’s ageing population presents opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers, according to Cherie Hugo, a leading Australian dietitian.

Ms Hugo delivered a presentation on 12 April 2016 on the topic of “Designing foods for an ageing population” at FoodLegal’s “The Future is Here” symposium in Melbourne.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2007 there were 2.4 million Australians aged between 65-84 years, by 2022 there will be 4 million. By 2056 it is predicted 1.7 million Australians will be aged 85 years an over.

There is clearly a growing niche opportunity in developing food suitable for an ageing population.

Ms Hugo identified some of the food attributes for elderly people, including:

  1. Smaller portion sizes: With age generally comes a drop in appetite. Manufacturers creating food and meals for the elderly need to consider this and could market different portion sizes.
  2. Lots of nutrients: Although smaller portions might be needed, manufacturers need to ensure what is offered helps those eating the food eat enough and receive sufficient vitamins and minerals.
  3. Waste: Older people may have lived through tougher times and may not like to waste any foods. This should not be forgotten about when designing and manufacturing food, and particularly portion sizes.
  4. Packaging and Legibility and anti-tampering: Unfortunately one of the biggest problems for the elderly when it comes to eating is being able to open and use conventional packaging. Food manufacturers might consider the elderly in relation to their food safety anti-tampering devices in packaging. It is important for food designed for older people to have considered the need for better legibility and visibility.

Ms Hugo is the founder and co-ordinator of “The Lantern Project” which aims to improve quality of life for Australian aged care residents through good food and nutrition. Organisations involved in the Lantern Project include The Maggie Beer Foundation, FoodLegal, Hammond Care Group, Bond University and a number of other Australian universities and businesses.

Ms Hugo has 14 years’ experience as a dietitian and is the director of My Nutrition Clinic in Queensland.