Age Concern New Zealand

Serving the needs of older people
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Two older women having lunch together

It can be hard to keep your interest in food when you're cooking for one and you don't feel so hungry.  Age Concern works with older people to keep themselves healthy through services to help nutrition and ease isolation.

As you age you gain special dietary needs. Cutting back too far on food can lead you into malnutrition, which will damage your health, resistance to illness, recovery times and morale.

Dietary malnutrition is more common in older people than you may think but it can be prevented or alleviated.

Healthy eating is a key to maintaining your health.

The good news is that many of the rules for keeping your weight down no longer apply! We recommend that you:

  • eat when you feel hungry
  • eat a variety of foods
  • keep active and maintain a healthy weight
  • have plenty to drink
  • but go easy on alcohol
  • make mealtime a social time if possible.

Meals on Wheels

This community support service provides a hot meal (often plus a dessert) at weekday lunchtimes to people who aren’t able to cook for themselves because of illness, injury or disability.

How do I get Meals on Wheels?

Talk to your doctor about your needs. S/he can refer you to the local Meals on Wheels provider, or you may be referred as part of a Needs Assessment Service Coordination assessment. Local charges vary around $4 - $8 per meal.

Who provides Meals on Wheels?

Local services vary, but Meals on Wheels services are typically provided by district health boards (often through hospital food services), with volunteers from community organisations such as Age Concern providing delivery. Delivery people also provide regular daily contact for many people who live alone.

National service specifications set standards that providers must work to when providing their service. Your meal should have information on “meal handling once received, for example reheating, freezer storage, defrosting and cooking”.

Many people keep some of their meals for later, some dividing them into several portions. We recommend that you watch your nutrition levels and follow safe food storage and reheating practices if you do this.

Nutrition and carers

Inadequate care can lead to neglect (some of it unintentional) or self-neglect.
We have seen older people unable to feed themselves at mealtimes and having their food go cold or be taken away before they can eat enough. Set mealtimes sometimes don't coincide with older people's changing appetite patterns, also leading to poor eating

DHB figures show that older people accounted for almost half the malnutrition cases in public hospitals last year, with 250 of these patients aged 65 or older.

Around seventeen percent of referrals to Age Concern Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services include neglect. Forty-seven percent of neglected older people had inadequate food.


Poor nutrition is a hidden problem for older people. Don't let yourself slip into poor eating habits. Age Concern works with older people to keep themselves healthy through various services to help nutrition and combat neglect and isolation.

ResourcesCover: Food and Nutrition Guidelines

Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Older People: A background paper.

This new Ministry of Health publication brings together all the key areas of food and nutrition affecting older people's health.  It is intended for health practitioners, educators and caregivers, so they can provide sound advice and support to older people and their families towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Accredited Visiting Service

> MORE information on our service for isolated older people