A pioneering project to improve the nutrition and wellbeing of older people in care settings is making huge strides.

The Soil Association’s Food for Life Better Care programme – funded by a £1.25million grant from the Big Lottery Fund – uses good food to reduce loneliness among lonely people.

It is currently working directly with older people to develop and tailor programmes to reflect the different needs in three areas across the UK.

The programme is being piloted in Edinburgh, Calderdale & Kirklees and Leicester City & Leicestershire, and gives older people in care settings, hospital and their own homes more support to eat and enjoy food together.

Around 600 care home residents have benefited from activities and care home workers and volunteers have supported older people’s food needs in their own environments.

The programmes have also built on Food for Life’s network of 10,000 schools to support better links between schools and care homes, promoting cooking and food growing activities and encouraging shared meals instead of people eating alone.

They have been co-designed with older people and tailored to meet the different needs for health and social care within each region but contain common elements including:

  • Improving the food experience of residents in care settings
  • Offering older people in hospital a communal dining experience and food support after a hospital stay
  • Improving food support from home care visits
  • Improving shared meals provision for older people
  • Inviting older people into schools and young people into care homes to share food and growing and cooking activities
  • Supporting volunteers working with older people to develop food skills

The project represents an important opportunity to demonstrate that good food is also a worthwhile investment for the UK’s challenged health and social care system, because of the vital role that it can play both nutritionally and in tackling isolation amongst older people.

Joanna Lewis, Soil Association policy director, said: “Two out of every five older people say that the television is their main source of company. Good food and enjoyable mealtimes are important throughout our lives – but for older people they can dramatically improve health and wellbeing.”