Factors influencing nutrition risk of older New Zealanders : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Human Nutrition at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
As the population ages it is increasingly important to understand the factors
influencing dietary habits of older people. Social, biological and psychological
factors influence food intake and affect nutrition risk among older people living
in the community.
The purpose of this study was to identify food-related behaviours that place
older people at nutrition risk and to evaluate older peoples’ perceptions and
experiences of various nutrition support options.
Fifty-one community living people aged between 80 and 85 years were
recruited in North Shore City. Food-related behaviours were explored with the
use of three quantitative tools. Practitioner Assessment of Network Type
(PANT) was used to evaluate social networks. Elderly Assessment System
(EASY-Care) was used to evaluate physical and mental wellbeing. Seniors in
the Community: Risk Evaluation for Eating and Nutrition Version II (SCREEN II)
assessed nutrition risk. Five people participated in a qualitative interview about
nutrition support they had received.
A third of the participants (31 percent) were found to be at nutrition risk. Twothirds
(67 percent) showed some evidence of disability and needed assistance
with everyday tasks. Nearly half (47 percent) of these older people had
supportive social networks including close relationships with local family, friends
and neighbours. There was an inverse linear relationship between participants’
self-rated health and nutrition risk (p<.001). Those who perceived their health to
be fair or poor were more likely to be at nutrition risk.
The importance of social contact, a sense of gratitude, ‘getting a meal’, and
‘meeting the need’ were common themes that emerged from interviews with
participants who received nutrition support.
These findings indicate that nutrition risk may be prevalent among community
living older people in New Zealand. Strategies and initiatives are needed to
encourage independent living and to help older people with the procurement,
preparation, cooking and sharing of enjoyable meals.