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Blogs / 07.09.2021

Tea for 2? Fighting the Loneliness Crisis through Food

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a sharp rise in people experiencing ‘lockdown loneliness’. Results from the recent Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) show that 7.2% of the adult population said that they felt lonely “often” or “always”.

Sadly, that statistic doesn’t paint the full picture for one of the UK’s most at-risk demographics.

At the time of writing, there are approximately half a million individuals living in Care Homes across the UK. Until very recently, widespread visiting restrictions were enforced to protect residents. If loneliness was a problem before, the pandemic only served to amplify it.

So how do you fight the loneliness crisis in a care setting? We believe food can play a huge part…

Research conducted by Age UK revealed that almost three-quarters of older people think that having more opportunities to connect with other people would be the best way to help people who are experiencing mental health problems.

Compass Healthcare provide in-house dining and food procurement services to over 5,000 senior residents every day. Whilst it’s our chief responsibility to nourish those residents, we also believe that food can be used to create connections and build communities.

Residential and Dementia care environments are particularly well suited to food-focused events that encourage residents to come together and socialise… 

Calendar events

Research has shown that loneliness over the festive period hits our senior generation the hardest, with over half a million older people (65+) in the UK and Ireland expecting to feel lonely around this time.

Generating a buzz around a communal Christmas dinner or celebratory NYE fancies helps residents to feel part of something, creating a sense of community and occasion.

It’s important to maintain the momentum of themed food events throughout the year, whether it’s an easter egg hunt in spring or strawberries and cream to celebrate the start of Wimbledon!

Afternoon tea & coffee

We’re fortunate to work with an incredible range of care providers, each doing their best to encourage residents to join in with sports and social activities. And what better way to bolster the participant numbers than the prospect of a pop-up buffet alongside an activity.

Jam and scones with your indoor bowls? We’re in.

Friendly faces

Sometimes, the sensation of loneliness can come from feeling like you’ve been forgotten. Our Chefs and Catering assistants are all too aware of the role that they play in the day-to-day routines of our resident diners. 

It’s for that reason that we train our teams to deliver a personalised service.

Whether that’s striking up a conversation over lunch to something as simple as a knowing smile, nod and remembering a name, it feels good to be recognised.

“…Yes, it’s become somewhat of a ritual really, meeting the girls in the café for a slice of lemon drizzle and a cup of tea. We’ve been talking a lot about the Olympics to Oliver (Catering assistant) recently, I believe he’s a very keen cyclist, maybe one day he’ll fly the flag!”

Florence, resident

Don’t just take our word for it…

Using data from a national survey conducted by The Big Lunch, researchers from the University of Oxford uncovered that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.

The purpose of the research was to study the link between social eating and an individual’s happiness, the number of friends they have, their connection to their community, and overall satisfaction with life.

Most notably, 76% of those questioned stated that they thought sharing a meal was a good way to bring people closer together, yet those over the age of 55 were the most likely to eat alone. This is a concerning finding given the increased risk of loneliness in senior individuals.

According to Age UK, there are 1.4m chronically lonely older people in England, and that number is projected to grow to 2.03 million in 2025/26.

Studies like this underpin the importance of encouraging residents to dine communally to help fight off the risk of feeling lonely.

Whether it’s in a care setting or not, food really does hold the potential to make a difference.

WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Want to learn more about the work Compass Group UK Healthcare do in the UK care sector? Get in touch with Cristel Worth, our Head of Partnerships, on +44 (0)1822 813802 or via email at cristel.worth@compass-group.co.uk.

References & credits:
1 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/mappinglonelinessduringthecoronaviruspandemic/2021-04-07
2 https://www.statista.com/statistics/1082379/number-of-people-living-in-care-homes-in-the-united-kingdom/
3 https://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/articles/2017/october/half-aged-55-have-had-mental-health-problems/
4 https://www.compass-healthcare.co.uk/sectors/senior-care/
5 https://www.healthassured.org/blog/combating-loneliness-this-christmas/
6 https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2017-03-16-social-eating-connects-communities
7 https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/loneliness/loneliness-report_final_2409.pdf

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