Objectives: To assess the nutrition risk status of community living older people and to identify associated risk factors.
Design: A cross-sectional study using convenience sampling.
Setting: North Shore City, Auckland, New Zealand. Data collection was carried out by a research nutritionist using computer assisted personal interviewing in the participant's own home.
Participants: Fifty-one independently living people aged between 80 and 85 years.
Measurement: A survey using three validated questionnaires: Practitioner Assessment of Network Type (PANT) to evaluate social networks; Elderly Assessment System (EASY-Care) to evaluate physical and mental wellbeing and Seniors in the Community: Risk Evaluation for Eating and Nutrition Version II (SCREEN II) to assess nutrition risk.
Results: A third of the participants (31%) were at high risk of malnutrition (SCREEN II score <50; range 29-58 out of maximum score of 64). The majority of participants (82%) lived alone and nearly half (47%) had supportive social networks including close relationships with local family, friends and neighbours. Low self-rated health, disability and social factors (being born outside of New Zealand, losing a spouse and loneliness) were key underlying factors associated with being at nutrition risk.
Conclusion: Nutrition risk is common among aged individuals living in the community. Health and social factors that shape eating behaviours place older people at increased nutrition risk. Strategies are needed for the early identification of risk factors to prevent nutrition problems. Engaging older people at risk to share meal preparation and dining experiences may foster better outcomes.