Mapping the key issues around ageing and nutrition (Upcoming London brainstorm Dec 16, 2019)

The overlap between ageing and nutrition is full of possibilities. We can take various lenses - here are three, that trace to one’s life stage. First, “Lifecourse” related topics, relating to prevention and maintaining wellness throughout life. Second, “Independence”, about keeping people active and interdependent within a community. And third, “Dignity”, relating to personalised, high quality care in expert settings.  

A couple of examples to illustrate some of these issues. Simon Shaw, a Programme Manager at Sustain was recently funded to do an international research tour to look at best practices around food delivery services. He found much that can inform the UK experience: a pride of ownership, a focus on high quality food, innovative public-private-volunteer models, and above all the recognition that meals are integral to someone’s life and have a massive impact on their day. We need to take this role seriously, and not have it fall between the cracks, outsourced to the lowest cost bidder. 

In the hospital setting, the need for high quality food tailored to context is crucial. According to Dr Daniel Davis, an academic geriatrician at UCL in London, older people hospitalised during acute illness need around 1.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight to help repair muscles, yet often don’t get itIt would mean a rather diminutive, frail, older lady (or man) of 50kg would need 60g of protein per day, and most eat nothing like that. This raises a number of questions. Are our hospital meals good enough quality, in particular regarding protein? (some work has already happenned arond this topic, again from Sustain). Is food intake sufficiently tailored and personalised to the needs of the individual? What foods are sufficiently protein-heavy, or what innovation do we need around new products that make consuming protein easy?  

Lifecourse: Preparing for a successful whole-life 

  • Personalised food plans and tracking e.g. JoinZoe, Foodvisor
  • Protein intake - Newcastle University, Tyson Foods 
  • Building blocks of health, e.g. sugar - diabetes & dementia, implications of reducitarianism, vegetarianism and veganism, fasting, epigenetics, use of supplements e.g. spermidine
  • Built environment, food deserts, allotments, 'biophilic' cities, local gardens e.g. EvanLee
  • Behaviour change - driving healthy behaviours, triggers, nudges
  • Increasing awareness of and monitoring malnutrition e.g. Malnutrition Task Force

Independence: Living interdependently, connected in the community 

  • Meals on wheels - quality, cost, socially e.g. Sustain’s blog on the topic and case studies.
  • Helping people prepare their own food, safety (e.g. knives, stoves)
  • Social prescribing and food as social determinants of health e.g. Elemental
  • Socialisation - e.g. shared dinners e.g. Casserole Club, BlueZones 
  • In-home caregivers and food preparation - e.g. Birdie, Vida, Cera

Dignity: Expert care, acute conditions & end of life 

  • Hospital food e.g. Sustain’s Better Hospital Food
  • Condition-specific meals e.g. MemoryMeals
  • Hydration tracking and reporting e.g. smart hydration solutions
  • Stimulating hunger e.g. dementia and smell
  • Swallowing, dysphagia. Shaped, blended, 3D printed foods. 

These are just a starting point - input is welcome. As such, we are holding a “collective intelligence” workshop next Monday December 16th on the topic of food and nutrition, in partnership with ARK (Ageing Research at Kings College London). We’re looking to identify the key issues and some of the players that make up the “food ageing innovation ecosystem”. Still a few tickets left if you’d like to join. We’ll be serving light refreshments on arrival and during coffee, followed by festive snacks and networking. For a holiday bonus, Register here for a 25% discount off the £20 ticket price.