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Meals in geriatric institutions are often served in a dining room The elderly patients — endowed with theor socialized table manners and diet habits — who enter this milieu are affected by diseases and handicaps, reducing their ability to eat In the present study individual patients’ meals in geriatric care institutions were studied with respect both to nursing staffs’ intentions and assessments of patients, as well as to those patients’ expenences and the amount of influence they expected to have The research approach was ethnographic Eighteen newly admitted, mentally orientated patients and their primary enrolled nurses were allocated The results indicated that the idea of both the nurses and the elderly patients was to reach a meal situation that was as natural and independent as possible Compared with the elderly patients, the nursing staff had broader standards for acceptable table manners, and carried out collective dining of all 18 The elderly patients strove to behave in accordance with their standards and suffered because of their own limited eating competence and the experience of other patients’ problems The elderly patients avoided expressing their needs, and some enrolled nurses thought they were prying if they asked questions about such issues These different, culturally dependent, perceptions resulted in care that was not congruent with the needs of the elderly patients