Thousands of older people in the UK regularly skip meals with many more relying on ready meals and convenience food to keep themselves fed, according to new research published today (5th November) by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS).
The research, commissioned by the RVS and Yakult, highlights loneliness as one of the main reasons for older people skipping meals, with 22% of over 70s regularly eating alone, rising to 26% of people over 80.
Of those who eat most of their meals alone, 38% admit they miss having company at meal times. This can a negative impact on older people’s health, with 41% of over 70s admitting they rarely follow a healthy diet.
The research also found that 5% often forget to eat, and around 390,000 older people admit to relying on chilled convenience foods such as sandwiches.
Almost a million (955,464) older people in the UK admit to relying on ready meals and convenience foods to stave off hunger.
The report has been released alongside a new film starring TV presenter Rachel Riley, who visits a RVS lunch club in Rickmansworth to meet volunteers and older people who rely on the invaluable service.
She said: “Older people are often by themselves and it can be difficult to motivate yourself to make a nice hot meal.
“Loneliness is one of the worst things in terms of mental health and general wellbeing, so getting people together and having somewhere you can look forward to going to each week is fantastic.
“The volunteers themselves get a lot out of it too because they get to know the people who come in every week.”
Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering at the RVS, said: “Our lunch club volunteers are just one shining example of how people can gift their time to support their local communities.
“For more than 80 years, Royal Voluntary Service has been mobilising volunteers to meet the big needs of the day, and as our research shows, one of the most pressing is helping people age better – specifically supporting them to eat more healthily and to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of eating with others.”
“Now, more than ever, we need the public to step forward and make the difference. We are very excited to be working with Yakult and Rachel Riley to highlight the difference our volunteers make, and hope to inspire more people to take action.
“Whether it’s helping to run a lunch club, or one of our many other social groups, or providing companionship to an older person in their home or delivering books through our Home Library Service, our volunteers make a tangible difference to those they support and enable them to lead happier and healthier lives.”
Hiroaki Yoshimura, Managing Director of Yakult UK and Ireland, said: “The #MakeADifference campaign is a great opportunity to get involved and support older people within your local community.
Since the start of Yakult, we have encouraged our employees globally to be part of their communities starting with our Yakult Ladies in Japan, who provide an import societal role interacting with customers and visiting more than 44,000 older people living alone.
“For people thinking about volunteering, many studies demonstrate that volunteering can also have a positive effect on your individual well-being, so it’s an amazing gift for yourself and the people around you.”