The Changing Food Culture in Aged Care

At one point you may be living in an Aged Care Facility. Like it or not we’re all going to get old and many of us will need a helping hand to look after our basic needs. Since the beginning, the Aged Care institution has been based on a design of military regiment and hospital cleanliness. To gain access to this care we have to sacrifice our freedom and spontaneity for organised bath time, group activities and a set time to eat.

The pressures for Medical, nursing, care staff and cooking staff in our care homes are enormous and are becoming increasingly complex and involved. That’s due partly because we and our culture are more complex and demanding.

There’s an oncoming flood of Baby Boomers heading for assisted living. They’ve had far more experiences than their parents that are now living in care. They’ve travelled more, experiences are much greater, they are truly multicultural, they speak more languages, they are more wealthy, and, they have a mature, diverse, strong, complex food culture that is continuing to grow and develop. We shouldn’t need to give this up and conform as we get older.

With the ongoing pressures of reducing costs and increased complexity, food is under pressure in Aged Care. How do you maintain a healthy diet but also one that is rich and enjoyable and fun? Not simply guided by dietary guidelines and being on time?

But there’s a grassroots change developing. And it looks like regional Aged Care Facilities, with the help of the community, are the best to develop and champion it’s charge.

There are a number of Australian organisations that are leading the way for change in the food culture for our older population. The Lantern Project focus on improving the quality of food. The Maggie Beer Foundation highlights the need for change in Aged Care and rallies good food examples and our own The Village Garden Project turn residents into gardeners who grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Next time we’ll look how a group of community members working with organisations to help improve the quality of life for our aging population in care.

David Barnier