'Good, honest food': older adults' and healthcare professionals' perspectives of dietary influences and food preferences in older age in Ireland

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023 Oct;36(5):1833-1844. doi: 10.1111/jhn.13216. Epub 2023 Jul 31.


Background: This study aimed to explore older adults' and healthcare professionals' (HCPs) perceptions of dietary influences and food preferences in older age.

Methods: The research design was phenomenological qualitative description. Semistructured one-to-one interviews and focus groups were held separately with community-dwelling older adults and HCPs involved in care of the older person in Ireland. Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results: A total of 47 adults aged 55+ years were recruited (50% male; 49% aged 60-69 years; 28% aged above 70 years), and 26 HCPs were involved, comprising dietitians (n = 8); geriatricians (n = 6); clinical therapists (n = 4); and nurses, pharmacists, catering managers and meal delivery service coordinators (n = 2 each). There are strong desires for 'good, honest food' within the diet for an older person; however, gaps in current nutrition priorities, dietary guidance and health promotion were perceived. There were differences in the perspectives held by HCPs and adults aged 55+ years, as some HCPs centred their discussion around nutrition for preventing sarcopenia, frailty or cognitive decline, whereas many adults aged 55+ years desired foods which promote cardiometabolic health and reflect wider personal health and environmental values. Other themes included the impact of health and lifestyle changes accompanying ageing on dietary priorities, the importance of personal and psychosocial values in determining food choice and the impact of the external food environment on accessibility and shopping experiences.

Conclusions: Influences on dietary choice for the older person are multifactorial, driven by a range of health, psychological, sociocultural and environmental perspectives. Future nutrition priorities for older adults should encourage health-promoting approaches and not just disease-mitigating efforts.

Keywords: dietary preferences; health promotion; healthcare professionals; healthy ageing; nutrition; older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research