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To explore influences on diet in a group of community-dwelling older adults in the UK.
Data were collected through focus group discussions with older people; discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and transcripts analysed thematically.
Participants were sampled purposively from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, focusing on those whose diets had been assessed at two time points: 1998–2001 and 2011.
Ninety-two adults participated (47 % women; 74–83 years) and eleven focus groups were held. A number of age-related factors were identified that were linked to food choices, including lifelong food experiences, retirement, bereavement and medical conditions, as well as environmental factors (such as transport). There appeared to be variability in how individuals responded to these influences, indicating that other underlying factors may mediate the effects of age-related factors on diet. Discussions about ‘keeping going’, being motivated to ‘not give up’, not wanting to be perceived as ‘old’, as well as examples of resilience and coping strategies, suggest the importance of mediating psychological factors. In addition, discussion about social activities and isolation, community spirit and loneliness, indicated the importance of social engagement as an influence on diet.
Interventions to promote healthier diets in older age should take account of underlying psychological and social factors that influence diet, which may mediate the effects of age-related factors.
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