In Scotland the number of people living to an older age is increasing.

There are now approximately 963,000 people aged over 65 years living in Scotland (18% of the population). This presents significant opportunities and challenges to ensure the Scottish Government’s goal for optimising health.

As people age, their requirements change, but a good diet and keeping active can help prevent potential health problems and play a key part in ageing well.

Food and eating is much more than nutrition. Most people’s food choices are influenced by a variety of personal factors such as enjoyment, habit, associations, ethnic heritage and tradition, values, social pressure, taste preferences, image, availability, convenience and economy. Creating the dining experience is also a great way to encourage people to eat and drink as eating and drinking is a great social activity that brings people together

Water is essential for life and maintaining the correct balance of fluid in the body is crucial to health. The evidence for good hydration shows that it can assist in preventing or treating ailments such as constipation, pressure ulcers and confusion.  

It is recognised that some care home some residents will have specific health needs that may compromise their nutritional state. This is where getting the right help at the right time can be crucial. Always aim for food first and never underestimate the importance of the need to be creative when encouraging people to eat and drink.

What is Nutrition?

There is a saying ‘you are what you eat’ so it’s important to provide a healthy diet that provides a variety of foods eaten in the correct proportions to provide the correct amount of energy (calories) and nutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals) to ensure there is adequate nutrition every day to maintain body processes and protect from ill health.

Key considerations around food and fluid

Meals should:

  • be varied and nutritious
  • reflect food preferences and any special dietary needs for the individual
  • be well prepared, cooked and attractively presented
  • be evenly spaced throughout the persons wakened day – aim for minimum of 4 hours between each main meal
  • be based on individual nutritional needs
  • offer access/choice to a range of food & fluid

Creating the dining experience:

  • Tables should be set to a standard of eating out
  • Noise and distraction reduced
  • Protected mealtimes with a named person taking control of the dining room to coordinate activity should be in place – ‘ a mealtime coordinator’
  • Staff should be aware of how to assist someone to eat and drink
  • Remember eating and drinking is a social experience and gives staff and people using services the chance to really connect 

It is recognised that good nutritional care, adequate hydration and enjoyable mealtimes can dramatically improve the general health and well-being of older people, as well as increasing their resistance to disease and their recovery from any illness, trauma or surgery.

It is important that care service staff are able to demonstrate and evidence good food and fluid knowledge that is supported by up to date policies and procedures that take cognises of relevant best practice and Scottish legislation.