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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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Problems with the act of swallowing

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Aug 14, 2019 in Uncategorised

The act of swallowing recruits more than thirty different nerves and muscles to move food and liquid down the correct channels from mouth to stomach.


Dysphagia refers to any failure in the act of swallowing. It can range from mild to severe, acute to chronic, and short- to long term, and result in unintentional weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration, social and psychological challenges, complications with other conditions, and, more seriously, life-threatening problems like choking, suffocation and lung infections or pneumonia.





Dysphagia can involve problems with any part of the process, including sucking, chewing, swallowing food, drinks, medication or saliva, and preventing substances from entering the airway and lungs.


It can also include difficulty keeping the lips closed to hold food, liquid or saliva inside the mouth. Further down, if oesophagus valves are weakened, food, drink and stomach acid can come back up.


The most common form is oropharyngeal dysphagia – difficulty with the reflexive act of swallowing itself which involves moving food or liquid from the mouth through the pharynx and into the oesophagus. The other main type is oesophageal dysphagia, which produces the feeling of food being stuck in the throat or chest and possibly chest pain.


The most frequent causes of dysphagia are neurological disorders including stroke, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Other triggers include head injury, motor neuron disease, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, frailty, cancer and postoperative problems involving the head and neck.


Weakened muscles and sarcopenia can also impact swallowing. Pills themselves – which 40% of adults find hard to swallow – can cause dysphagia through medication side effects.



Sensory experiences could enhance aged care dining

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Aug 6, 2019 in Uncategorised

Imagine a cold, neon-lit food hall and the noise of chairs scraping loudly on the floor, the echo of clunky knives and forks and drab-looking slop served in plastic containers.


Contrast this with a warmly lit dining room with soft, melodic music in the background, the smell of cooking wafting from the kitchen, soft carpet underfoot and a colourful, tasty-looking smorgasbord of food options.


Engaging people’s five senses with pleasant stimuli can be very pleasurable and even therapeutic. It can also make a huge difference to the aged care dining experience.


Why is this important? First and foremost, because one in three older adults are silently suffering from malnutrition.


Improving the flavour – and nutrition content – of food served to older adults is an obvious imperative. Enhancing the sensory experience at mealtimes can further improve appetite and people’s desire to prolong the meal experience.


As celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal wrote, “We eat with our eyes, ears, nose, memory, imagination and our gut.”



Traditional aged care dining


Even when it comes to the food itself, aged care gets a very bad report card.


For instance, an analysis of unsolicited aged care correspondence just four years ago, after Maggie Beer launched her foundation to improve the situation, identified some unappetising themes around food provision.


The food itself was perceived as poor quality, and it caused distress and feelings of powerlessness for staff and families. Some constraints to serving better meals included restrictive food safety rules, inadequate budgets, poor employee attitudes and under-skilled kitchen staff.


An overwhelming need to address these problems and change food culture emerged.


A more recent Four Corners report exposed similar issues, including examples of poor quality food and people who couldn’t feed themselves being left hungry.



Creating change


Australia’s interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is due by the end of October and the final report on 30 April 2020. But with so many problems to address, its terms of reference don’t even address mediocre food and dining.


This hasn’t stopped some organisations from forging ahead.


The Lantern Project, for instance, was “borne of the need to improve the quality of life of older adults through the joy of food”.


A national collaboration that hosts monthly meetings on the Gold Coast and webinars, it has 500 members from aged care across Australia.


Some of their initiatives include an app to capture stories that identify food service priorities, a video series, “Little Things”, to showcase innovations in food service and “The Lantern Approach”, a set of guidelines to improve aged care dining.


They have published 11 papers, and three working groups are exploring “dining experience”, “legal and quality food issues” and “food activities connecting generations”.


The Maggie Beer Foundation, of course, is another organisation working hard to make a difference, and improve the experience as well as the food.


Innovations don’t have to be as fancy as Michelin-starred chef Paco Roncero’s restaurant in Ibiza that projects emotive 360-degree images around the room and uses scent diffusers and a speaker system to supplement its elaborate 20-course meals.


However, some interesting research can offer insights into making small adjustments. For instance, food from a round plate tastes “sweeter” than from a pointy plate, which can make it taste more bitter.


Another study found that high-contrast blue plates and glasses increased food consumption by 25% and liquid intake by 84%. Red plates, on the other hand, are off-putting.


Ultimately, though, a warm, friendly environment with pleasant, familiar sights, smells and sounds served with tasty, nutritious food is enough to considerably improve people’s health and quality of life into old age.



Dining & dysphagia


Swallowing is a deceptively complex act that people do without thinking nearly a thousand times a day – not just when eating and drinking, but also during every waking minute. With ageing, many people develop varying degrees of difficulty swallowing. Not only does this interfere with enjoying foods and drinks, but it has a host of other ramifications for health and wellbeing.


Click the button below to download your FREE report on The Future of Dysphagia.













The Future of Dysphagia

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Jul 30, 2019 in Uncategorised

Globally, for the first time, there are more people over 65 than under five years of age. In 2017, 3.8 million Australians were aged 65 years and over, according to a survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This comprises 15% of the population, compared to just 5% in 1937. This “demographic time bomb” is still in steep ascent, expected to reach 8.8 million older Australians – more than one in five people – by 2057, and 12.8 million, or one in four people, by 2097. The profile of this older cohort itself is expected to shift upwards.


Living longer can have several impacts on health and wellbeing, including dysphagia. The condition can occur at any age but is most common with aging, affecting up to one in five community-dwelling older adults and around half of those living in aged care facilities.



Free Report


This report on The Future of Dysphagia will provide an overview of our aging population, explore dysphagia management, and where we are headed. Click the button below to download your free report.