Attempts have been made to spread animosity between the generations by insisting that compared with the young, the elderly are now privileged. But the reality is very different.
The number of older people diagnosed with malnutrition has more than trebled to almost 500,000 in the past decade, according to research. More than 1 million people aged 60 and over – one in 10 – are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.
“It is shocking that 1.3 million older people suffer from or are at risk of malnutrition in our country and the root of the problem doesn’t just lie with poverty,” said Dianne Jeffrey, the chair of the Malnutrition Task Force. “There are other contributing factors which add to the risk. Public health messages that don’t always relate to this age group; a lack of ability to shop, eat and drink at home without help. As well as loneliness and isolation, grief and bereavement, poor physical and mental health or a lack of awareness of the risks by health and social care staff,” she added.
230,000 people aged 75 and over having difficulty with the physicality of eating, such as cutting up food, and above 1.9 million having difficulty eating food because of a dental condition.
Not being able to afford to eat may be another cause of malnutrition, particularly for those older people living in poverty. English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (Elsa) data shows that over 360,000 people aged 50-64 and over 29,000 of 65-74 year-olds admit having to cut or skip meals because they didn’t have enough money.