Consumer choice important in aged care
Nutrition is very important when supplying food to the elderly, but this often causes caterers to overlook consumer choice. This formed the basis of discussions for the inaugural Parliamentary Friends of Ageing and Aged Care meeting held last week.
Co-hosted by COTA Australia (Council on the Ageing), the event was called ‘Loving Food At Any Age’ and brought together Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), politicians, advocates for the elderly and renowned cook Maggie Beer to discuss the main pain points regarding food in residential aged-care facilities.
Firstly, COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates highlighted the difficulties of catering to the individual needs of all residents in aged-care homes.
“Providing good quality food in residential aged care has some challenges — both physical and nutritional. Menu planning needs to take into account the medical requirements of every resident, their nutritional needs, cultural background and capacity to digest food or even eat,” Yates said. “In some cases, supplements are necessary to make sure a resident receives the nutrition they need but they should never be an easy or cheap replacement for proper food.”
One of the main aims of food businesses is to provide varied and exciting food options for consumers, but many assume this does not apply to the older generations. While nutrition is crucial, Yates argued that businesses should also take into consideration what they want as lack of choice is one of the biggest complaints of aged-care residents.
“Aged-care providers need to do more than tick the basic dietary boxes. With imagination and effort there’s no reason that people living in residential aged care should forgo the joys of great meals just because people assume they’re too old to care.
“Tonight’s inaugural Parliamentary Friends event on Valentine’s Day is about putting love into food and getting people to think beyond mere sustenance for aged-care residents to providing food to which residents look forward.”
Although some providers are offering high-quality food to residents, increasing consumer choice would help boost food standards. Yates suggested there is plenty of room for improvement, not only for providers but for the government as well.
“Unfortunately, not everyone can access the providers who are doing the right thing because the current aged-care funding system restricts the way aged-care beds are allocated.
“The government can improve the quality of food by giving residents the funding so they can change providers if their food isn’t up to scratch; and allow the best providers to expand in response to consumer demand. The current system actually supports the survival of poorer quality providers — it’s way past time this stopped, as has been repeatedly recommended.
It is hoped that this marked the first of many Parliamentary Friends meetings that will facilitate bipartisan discussion around aged-care policy, especially considering the shifting demographic in Australia.
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