An article published in RightsInfo on the United Nations International Day of Older Persons explored the impact of reduced access to food on UK’s ageing population, stating that although there has been a decrease in the number of older people living in poverty, one in ten older people (approximately 1.3 million) “are either malnourished or at imminent risk of being malnourished.”
The article identified that due to ageist stereotypes, older people are at a greater risk of discrimination, isolation and exclusion, often impacting access to appropriate health and social care services. As such, in addition to financial insecurity, bereavement, illness and a reduction of services are commonly identified as causes of malnourishment
IFA Expert Dr John Beard, a global leader in the field of ageing and Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Ageing and Life Course, can be contacted for additional information regarding older people living in poverty, including the impacts of social isolation and malnutrition.
Social isolation and access to food are two issues that intersect in complicated ways. Although there is no single initiative that can solve this, the article highlights a few opportunities. Services like meals on wheels, lunch clubs and improved food provision in hospitals all positively influence the eating habits of older people. For another example of good practice, IFA Expert Dr Regina Roller-Wirnsberger has experience in developing an integrated nutritional approach that prevents malnutrition and promotes healthy ageing.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, identifies a right to food and an adequate standard of living. Moving forward, coordination between governments and civil society is critical in developing comprehensive solutions to improve access to nutritious food for older people.
Dr. Regina Roller-Wirnsberger President
Professor of Geriatrics and Competency Based Curriculum Development at the Medical University of Graz in the Department of Internal Medicine
Dr. John Beard Director of Ageing and Life Course
Dr John Beard, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., is Director of Ageing and Life Course with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva