As we age, maintaining a healthy diet becomes increasingly important.
Many older adults in Canada - nearly one in three - don't eat enough calories to meet their energy needs which can lead to increased risk of malnutrition.
A contributing factor to this is eating in isolation: many older adults find themselves eating alone due to factors such as retirement, the loss of a spouse or decreased social activities.
Eating alone is often not as enjoyable as eating with others and can lead to feelings of depression and decreased appetite, making individuals less motivated to prepare and cook healthy meals.
“Encouraging socialization during meal times is a great way to improve nutrition and mental well-being in older adults,” says Dr. Ariella Zbar, medical health officer, Population and Public Health. “Sharing meals provides the opportunity for connection while also encouraging individuals to eat a more balanced and varied diet, which helps ensure they receive enough nutrients for good health.”
Research shows that those who eat with others tend to eat more, which can help them to stay strong and healthy. Older adults are less likely to skip meals when others join them. By promoting social interactions during meals, we can ensure better nutrition while improving emotional well-being among aging individuals.
Here are some ways older adults can make mealtimes more social:
- Invite family or friends over to enjoy a meal while socializing.
- Enjoy regular potlucks or picnics in the backyard or a favorite park. Try this healthy recipe for your next picnic.
- Participate in community meal programs at a local seniors’ center or community center. Find options in your community below:
- Join a cooking class for older adults. There are several programs in the community, including Food Skills for Families: Seniors Edition.
If food affordability is a challenge, find free community meals and free or low-cost groceries in your community.
Older adults who have better nutrition are more likely to live independently in their own homes for longer. Eating with others is an important aspect of healthy aging and a great way to maintain independence in later years.