Collaboration to tackle malnutrition among older people

Meals on Wheels and nutrition advocates are calling on the government to fund the development of dietary guidelines for people over 70.

In an initiative to tackle malnutrition in older Australians, Meals on Wheels Australia has partnered with nutrition advocates to call on the federal government to fund the development of dietary guidelines for people over 70.

Sharyn Broer

Headed by MoWA, the collaboration of organisations – called the Nutrition for Older Australian Alliance – include Dietitians Australia, Nutrition Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia and the Maggie Beer Foundation.

“If there was one underlying investment that the government could make, it would be getting these healthy eating guidelines for older people written in such a way that older people themselves could follow them, as could anyone supporting their care ,” MoWA president Sharyn Broer says.  

“As we get older our nutritional needs change. We know older Australians require more protein to maintain protective muscle mass, more calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B2 to maintain bone strength and adequate amounts of energy to prevent unintentional weight loss.”

In a pre-budget submission, the alliance says “the absence of specific dietary guidelines for older Australians … reduces the capacity of the aged care sector, hospitals and other sectors to prepare nutritionally adequate home-delivered meals and residential aged care meals, snacks and beverages”.

The submission calls on the government to:

  • fund the development of a specific set of dietary guidelines for people over 70 years of age
  • fund successful public education, implementation support, monitoring and evaluation of the dietary guidelines.

In order to action the recommendations, the alliance has asked for a government investment of $5 million.

While there are national guidelines for people providing community meals and home-delivered meals (designed by MoWA), residential care is lagging the home care sector when it comes to national standards of nutrition for older people receiving residential care, Ms Broers.

“There’s a real lack of primary health information for people as they age to know what it is that their bodies need to keep them strong and healthy,” she added.

“There are very few older adults who are aware that their body needs more protein as a component of their diet than they needed in their 50s or indeed in their 20s.”

“We expect that implementing these recommendations will result in better health and wellbeing for older Australians and reduced economic burden on the Australian health system, providing a double benefit to the federal government,” Ms Broers said.

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Tags: meals-on-wheels, nutrition, sharyn-broer,

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