Shopping for a solution to rising malnutrition among older people | Letter

The NHS Digital figures and English Longitudinal Study of Ageing data paint a shocking picture of nutritional and care standards in this country (Soaring toll of over-60s at risk of malnutrition, 23 December), but can the source also be identified earlier in the system? High street shopping has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and while this brings great benefit to the physically and economically mobile, and to the supermarket owners, it has not made it easier for the older generation to adapt to their reduced abilities.

I am 88, I like to do my own cooking, and am fortunate to live within 500 yards of a butcher, baker, greengrocer and small supermarket, and a small weekly market. Another 500 yards distance and it would be a different story. For people further afield, with no public transport, purchasing the necessities becomes really difficult, and it is not surprising that some will gradually become undernourished. Online shopping is a great help for those who can manage it, but very often there’s a large minimum order to get free or reasonably priced delivery. And all those bargain packs are fine for a family, but someone living alone will only be able to manage a quarter of the size – fridges and freezers can’t perform miracles of preservation.

We need to make sure our ageing relatives and friends are not wasting away, and that if they are in care they are getting access to proper food. But we must also make sure our shopping areas are within easy reach of the less able, by ensuring there are shops within reach and, where needed, there are community transport schemes. By doing this we could reduce the number of people falling victim to malnourishment – not to mention the social benefits of having a vibrant community high street.
Judith Bennett
Sturminster Newton, Dorset

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