Survey shows seniors desire companionship at mealtime

Dining in the company of at least one person is tied to decreased feelings of loneliness and healthier eating overall for seniors, according to a new survey.

Researchers, working on behalf of the organization Home Instead Senior Care network, surveyed 600 seniors who lived alone to learn more about their mealtime and nutritional habits. More specifically, investigators looked at how these habits reflected their health and quality of life. Although this research focused on seniors who lived in their own homes, the findings still have implications for seniors living in long-term care facilities.

For instance, more than three-fourths of seniors surveyed responded that they wished their families shared more meals together, and a majority of seniors said they eat more nutritiously and that food actually tastes better when they are eating with others. This also could be true for nursing home residents who are too ill to join other residents in communal dining areas. They also reported feeling happier.

Arranging for these residents to take meals in smaller groups, or encouraging friends and family members to visit during meal times might help alleviate the loneliness that comes with eating by oneself.

Nursing homes also can encourage communal dining by making it easier for residents to eat in small groups and by serving meals family-style.