Nurturing Health, Happiness & Community
In our fast-paced modern society, the simple act of sharing a meal together has taken a backseat for many individuals, however, there is a growing body of research that highlights the numerous benefits, particularly for older people. Eating together is more than just a necessity; it’s a way to promote wellbeing and enhance overall quality of life.
At Abbeyfield, we recognise and prioritise the importance of shared mealtimes for older people, with shared mealtimes at our houses and homes to help create vibrant communities that support the health and happiness of our residents.
Benefits of eating together in later life
As we age, maintaining a well-balanced diet becomes crucial. When dining alone, older people may be more likely to opt for convenience foods or skip meals altogether. Eating together encourages older people to consume healthier meals, as shared mealtimes often involve a wider variety of food options. It helps to foster an environment where individuals are more likely to try new foods, diversify their nutrient intake, which will in turn help to improve overall nutrition. In addition to this, older people who eat together are more likely to have regular eating patterns, reducing the likelihood of skipping meals, or relying on unhealthy snacks.
Better physical health
Enjoying mealtimes together can positively affect physical health in several ways. Firstly, older adults tend to eat more slowly when they are dining with others, which helps to aid digestion. This in turn can also help with promoting mindful practices, like savouring the flavour and texture of food, which can lead to better digestion.
A healthy and active mind
Engaging in conversations and interactions during shared mealtimes can provide valuable mental stimulation for older adults including recalling memories, sharing stories and discussing current events. These conversations help to exercise memory, attention and language skills, ultimately contributing to better cognitive health. Regular social interactions during meals can also help to reduce feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety, which all helps to improve emotional well-being.
Making social connections
Shared mealtimes help to foster a sense of community and strengthen social connections, as they provide older people an opportunity to connect with peers, family members, care providers through conversation, connection and companionship whilst nurturing meaningful relationships. Shared mealtimes can provide a supportive environment where people are able to share their experiences, offer advice and help to build a network of support, whilst also combatting loneliness and improving overall mental health.
Enhanced quality of life
The combination of improved nutrition, physical health, keeping minds active and social connections, ultimately leads to a better quality of life for older people. Regular shared mealtimes can bring a sense of belonging, laughter, and joy which can make meals the highlight of the day. It also helps to create a routine and structure to the day. The positive effects of eating together extend beyond mealtimes, as older people often report feeling happier and more content. In a 2017 study of 2000 adults aged over 18, those who ate socially more often were also more likely to feel happy and satisfied with life. Participants were balanced for factors that might have skewed results (including location, age and gender) and the results remained the same – regular social eaters felt happier.