Food in older men with somatic diseases : Eating habits and approaches to food-related activities

Abstract: The overall aim was to improve the knowledge and understanding of eating habits of older men with somatic diseases, and the men's perceptions about managing food-related habits, such as grocery shopping and cooking. A total of 67 men between 64 and 89 years of age were visited in their homes on two occasions with 1-2 weeks in between. The participants were diagnosed with one of the three diseases Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or stroke. A food survey, with repeated 24-h recall, was used to assess food intake and meal patterns. Interviews with 18 participants were conducted with open-ended questions. The interviews were further analysed with a thematic framework approach.The findings showed that eating events were distributed over a 24-h period.Further, co-living men had a significantly larger number of eating events over the day (p=0.001). No differences in daily energy intake were observed between co-living and single-living men. Co-living men’s hot eating events were compared with those of single-living men more often cooked from fresh ingredients (p=0.001), including a greater mix of vegetables/roots (p=0.003).Thematic analysis revealed three different approaches to food-related activities(FRA), namely ‘Cooking as a pleasure’, describing joy in cooking; ‘Cooking as a need’, indicating no habits or skills in cooking; and ‘Food is served’, that is, being served meals by a partner. The men's approaches to FRA were affected in particular by gender-related roles, but also by changed life circumstances, activity limitations, personal interests, and a wish to maintain continuity and independence. Further adaptive strategies were used among the men in attempts to maintain continuity and independence in FRA. In conclusion, single-living older men, especially those with activity limitations, were identified as being a vulnerable group from a nutritional perspective. Further, health care efforts in promoting FRA should preferably be individualised with respect to the older man’s approach to these activities.