One in ten people over 60 have been eating less since the start of the pandemic, putting them at risk of malnutrition, according to analysis from Age UK.
The study shows that 1.4 million older people aged 60 and over in England have been eating less since the start of the pandemic, while 3.7million over 60s say that either they or others in their household have been unable to eat healthy and nutritious food.
According to the NHS, malnutrition has severe health implications and occurs when your diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients, with people over 65 being particularly at risk. Not eating and drinking enough increases the risk of infection and falls and can worsen existing long-term conditions.
Age UK surveyed people 60 and over, and used data from the studies the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing Covid-19 study and Understanding Society Covid-19 to determine how older people were coping with buying and eating food during the Covid outbreak.
Dianne Jeffrey, Chair of Age UK’s malnutrition task force, said: ‘It is devastating to hear that so many older people during lockdowns have been left with reduced appetites and are less able to shop for, prepare and eat enough good food.’
The Covid-19 restrictions have made it increasingly difficult for older people to get out, with increased anxiety about catching the disease, restricted access to food shopping, and reduced daily support.
Ms Jeffrey added: ‘Many older people are struggling to shop, cook, eat, and drink enough nourishing food, without their usual health and social care support or support of families and friends. Malnutrition makes it harder to recover from an episode of ill health, which is particularly worrying during this pandemic.’
Two in five of the participants surveyed said they feel less confident or much less confident going to the shops by themselves than they used to, and nearly half (49%) of people who already had difficulty going to the shops saying this has become harder.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said: ‘We really are worried about the number of older people who are now reporting they are not eating enough and it’s vital that we all raise the issue of eating well and getting enough nutrients with our older relatives and friends, sensitively and supportively.’
The Government’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Aging and Older People met last month to discuss malnutrition in the UK and how lockdowns have affected people in older generations.