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Keywords:

  • community centres;
  • dietary habits;
  • nutrition policy;
  • nutritional knowledge;
  • nutritional status;
  • older people;
  • self-care

Abstract

Background

The population of industrialised countries is ageing as a consequence of an increase in life expectancy. As a result of the increasing ageing process, the assessment of nutritional status and dietary habits, as well as the assessment of self-care, is needed to plan selected actions aimed at improving the quality of life in the third and fourth life spans.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was carried out on a randomly selected sample of 200 healthy older adults (≥65 years old), attending community centres for older people in Pavia, Northern Italy. Ninety-two percent of the recruited subjects participated in the survey. Anthropometric measurements and the Mini Nutritional Assessment were performed. Dietary habits, nutritional knowledge and self-care were investigated using a questionnaire administered by two dietitians.

Results

The majority of subjects were low socio-economic status and overweight [mean (SD) body mass index = 28.4 (4.3) kg/m2], 12% were malnourished according to their Mini Nutritional Assessment score and the majority of the arm muscle circumference measurements were below the 10th percentile, predicting accelerated loss of lean mass, even in the healthy independently living older adults. Only 30% of the sample had adequate dietary habits, whereas the ability to self-care was good for the whole sample.

Conclusions

The unhealthy and unbalanced diet, frequently too rich in sugar and fats and low in protein intake, might explain being overweight and the loss of lean mass in the study subjects.