Wigan charity raises awareness of malnutrition among older residents

Shocking figures suggest thousands of older people in the borough could be at risk of malnutrition or dehydration.

Friday, 9th October 2020, 7:00 am
Age UK Wigan Borough chief officer John McArdle

Age UK Wigan Borough is currently supporting Malnutrition Awareness Week which seeks to inform people about the problem of pensioners having a poor diet and experiencing food-related health issues.

Horrifyingly, the charity has estimated that, based on national data, there could be between 5,966 and 8,386 people aged 65 over over in Wigan borough at risk of malnutrition.

Age UK Wigan Borough wants people to be aware of the signs that an older resident could be struggling with eating the right foods.

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It has also launched Food Action Together (FAcT), a scheme in Wigan Central, Ince and Hindley council wards to bring communities together using food.

John McArdle, Age UK Wigan Borough chief officer, said: “The figures look shocking and quite dramatic. We don’t tend to think of malnutrition and dehydration as something we find in the UK in 2020.

“We’re asking people to look out for some of the signs of it. That could be people losing weight, their clothes fitting more loosely, having a lack of appetite, feeling tired or struggling to keep warm.

“People who are malnourished are less able to withstand sickness and illness, which means they are not in a good place when they go to the GP or are taken into hospital. This then has an impact on the length of their recovery.

“There is also a connection between malnourishment and dehydration and social isolation. If they are vulnerable and don’t have a big social network issues only come to the fore when they enter the health service.

“We want to start having these conversations to make this less of a taboo subject.”

Mr McArdle suggested older people face a range of food-related issues, including supermarkets tending to provide produce in sizes for families rather than people on their own, a lack of local shops in an area leading to higher prices at the ones which remain and pensioners struggling to find the motivation to cook.

He said: “There’s no easy solution to this. It’s not about handing out food to people or giving them a cookery lesson, there are multiple aspects to it and we are looking at them over the next year or so.”

FAcT will look at making sure older residents have access to healthy and sustainable food at affordable prices, with Mr McArdle describing these issues as more topical than ever as the country grapples with trying to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It will include one-to-one work with those thought to be at risk.

Age UK Wigan Borough also provides guides to eating well and living well and recipe books for service users.

For more information ring the charity on 01942 241972.