Older Women and Food : Dietary Intake and Meals in Self-Managing and Disabled Swedish Females Living at Home

Sammanfattning: The aim of the present thesis was to study elderly self-managing and disabled women’s dietary intake and meals in relation to age, household structure (single-living or cohabitant), disability and cooking ability. The women were aged 64-88 years and living at home, in the mid-eastern part of Sweden. The self-managing women were randomly selected. The disabled women – suffering from Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis or stroke – were selected from patient records. A total of 139 self-managing and 63 disabled women participated. Two dietary assessment methods were used: a repeated 24-h recall and a three-day estimated food diary, providing dietary intake for five non-consecutive days. The results indicate that elderly women still living in their homes seem to manage a sufficient dietary intake despite disability and high age. The reported energy intakes in all groups of women were low, which might be explained by an actual low intake and/or under-reporting. The portion sizes seemed to be smaller in the highest age group, leading to lower intakes of some nutrients. Thus also the nutrient density of the food should be given greater consideration. The meal pattern was shown to be regular and the distribution of main meals and snacks was found to be satisfactory. Meals and snacks that were defined as such by the women themselves thus seem to be more significant from an energy and nutritional perspective. Perceived cooking ability co-varied with energy and nutrient intake as well as with meal pattern.Further, a qualitative dietary assessment method, FBCE, was analysed. It was concluded that it must be supplemented with a dietary assessment method providing energy intake figures to ensure a sufficient intake, especially when studying groups at risk for low energy intake.Furthermore, the aim was to perform a dropout analysis. When studying older women and food, a low participation rate might be expected since the most active, the very ill as well as the disabled tend to decline participation, but also since food is a gender issue. Food could, especially for women, be a sensitive area of discussion, even though older women seem to choose "healthy foods" and eat "proper meals".