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A Good Food and Life for the Elderly: How Maggie Beer is Making a Difference

No, kids are not the only ones who need balanced meals to fight malnutrition and visually attractive meals to entice them to eat. Even older people living in aged-care homes are in need of quality foods. The best strategy to improve nutrition among the elderly is to enhance the usual standards in the foods served in homes for the elderly. This means serving them appetizing, nutritious and visually enticing meals to motivate them to eat properly.

This prompted celebrated cook, entrepreneur and 2010 Senior Australian of the Year awardee Maggie Beer to launch the “A Good Food Life for All” under the auspices of her Maggie Beer Foundation. Find out more about Maggie Beer’s campaign to improve the meals aged-care homeswritten by Michelle Rowe posted in The Australian – Executive Lifestyle.

elderly“… Through the foundation, Beer hopes to benchmark best practice across Australia and gather worldwide ­research into aged care to develop a framework for homes to provide flavoursome, nutritious meals that foster an enjoyment of food — something she believes will have wider implications for the nation’s health budget.

One of the biggest complaints about aged-care food, she has found, is that it is “nothing like home-cooked”. Beer despairs of reports that some facilities in Britain use “scent clocks” to dispense fake mealtime smells in the absence of identifiable food aromas emanating from blast-chilled, reheated meals.

“It’s terrible,” she says, “There’s a lot of research about the memory of smell being so evocative and important.”

Beer’s vision of the ideal aged-care facility is one that has a kitchen garden, an atmospheric and convivial dining room that encourages conversation and where the food is freshly prepared from seasonal produce. “Low-fat” products would be off the menu, given the greater nutritional needs of the aged.”

Beer collaborates with Cherie Hugo, a dietitian from Brisbane who works as a consultant to over 15 facilities for the aged. She has pursued a study that shows a relationship between poor nutrition and increased risks for falls, mental disorders, pressure wounds, falls, and hospital admission rates among the elderly. She asserts that about 80 percent of those in the Australian homes for the aged are malnourished.

Beer believes that these findings are relevant to her goal in influencing “budget-comes-first approach in many Australian care homes. It is also pertinent in creating policies concerning funding, and a review of the constricting health and safety regulations that limit food varieties in elderly homes.

“Our goal is to demonstrate to aged-care facilities that focusing more on good food and the dining experience will actually save (them) and the government money while improving the residents’ quality of life,” Hugo says.

Beer also works with Stephanie Alexander, a friend and founder of Kitchen Garden Foundation, which revolutionized food education at primary school level as a response to the increasing number of obesity and diabetes cases in Australia. She also has in her team Peter Morgan-Jones, the executive chef of Hammond Care whose achievement revitalized the food at the residential facilities causing a ripple effect across the industry.

Maggie Beer’s first task is already underway; identifying what three aged-care homes in South Australia are doing well and offering encouragement and guidance on meal improvements. She hopes to set higher culinary standards to these facilities through offering awards, developing accreditation for aged-care cooks, and to uplift the profession in terms of higher salaries.

With the baby boomers entering these facilities, her timing can’t be better. “When the baby boomers come, the industry knows it has to change substantially,” says Beer, who adds that the aged-care “conversation” is getting louder, with forward-thinking nations paying greater attention to the needs of their ageing populations, from building design to the inter­connecting of generations.

Her effort is rewarded by many letters from the families of the elderlies in aged-care homes profusely thanking her. Some expressed horror as they stood witness to how their loved ones were fed inadequately so that they became malnourished and their health failed.

Through this effort, most aged-homes will now get better meals such as this:

Maggie Beer suggested a winter menu:

Starter: 

Minestrone soup based on freshly made chicken stock, fresh vegetables and white beans

Main:

Slow-cooked beef shin with roasted beetroot, pumpkin puree and spinach. Lesser cuts are inexpensive and when slow-cooked become tender and silky, and full of flavour.

Dessert:

Baked custard, rich with cream and full-cream milk, with rhubarb roasted with butter and brown sugar

Thanks to Beer better meals are to come for the seniors kept in these homes. What motivated Beer?  Her motivation can be summed up in this statement:

I am just a cook and for me the greatest challenge is to determine what I can do first, what I can do quickly that will make a difference and give the impetus to others…”

 

 

 

 

 

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