The Informal Networks in Food Procurement by Older People—A Cross European Comparison
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Healthy dietary profiles contribute to successful aging, and dietary intake is dependent upon food procurement capabilities. Both formal and informal social networks can contribute to grocery shopping capabilities and methods of food procurement. This investigation explores the role of informal networks in food procurement methods among adults aged 65 years and older, and compares differences across eight European countries. Food shopping ways (FSW), identified by quantitative analysis (cluster analysis and correspondence analysis), guided the content qualitative analysis which was carried out addressing three main research questions addressing food shopping routines, feelings of dependency and needs of informal support for shopping, and differences between past and present food shopping behaviours. Living circumstances influence food shopping habits. Informal networks differed between two groups of individuals: those living alone and those living with others. Gender differences emerged in shopping pleasure. Geographical factors were associated with preference for shopping companions, attitudes toward receiving support, and availability of a car for shopping. The importance of living circumstances (i.e., alone vs. with others) in FSW was revealed. Informal social networks may play an important role in public health and welfare policies, particularly given the increase in this demographic group. Assistance with grocery shopping and the availability of trained personnel could widen informal networks, and effective informal networks may be an important supportive service for older adults. The comparison across countries highlighted relationships between food procurement capabilities and social networks. These findings may be used to develop resources to better meet the nutritional needs of older adults.
KeywordsFood shopping ways Food procurement Habits Informal network Formal network Food-related quality of life
The data used in this article belong to the European Research Project Food in Later Life. Choosing foods, eating meals: sustaining independence and quality of life (2004–2005) directed by Dr. Margaret Lumbers and Dr. Monique Raats from the University of Surrey (United Kingdom) and financed by the European Commission (QLK1CT200202447).
Authors share the responsibility of the paper, discussed and revised all the draft versions.
Monique Raats and Margaret Lumbers coordination of the whole project “Food in Later Life - Choosing foods, eating meals: Sustaining independence and quality of life in older people” (abbreviated SENIOR FOOD-QOL - acronym SFQ).
Sara Arber and Kate Davidson coordination of the “WP5 - The role of formal and informal networks in food procurement, preparation and consumption” including the tasks the paper refers to. They provided fundamental ideas for the implementation of the work, specifically in refining the research questions; moreover they kindly supervised the paper content.
Aida Turrini writing group chairperson, responsible for the specific design of the analysis carried out to achieve the presented results; responsible for the implementation of WP5 in Italy.
Birgit Schuhmacher did the first qualitative analysis of the huge amount of materials provided by all the partners filling the templates. She kindly revised the second draft providing an important contribution.
Laura D’Addezio did the quantitative analysis merging data provided by the English team using the SAS software and discussed the results.
Co-authors extracted, arranged and provided narratives:
Italy: Laura D’Addezio, Fabrizia Maccati
United Kingdom: Sara Arber, Kate Davidson, Monique Raats, Margaret Lumbers,
Denmark: Klaus Grunert
Germany: Birgit Schuhmacher,Cornelie Pfau
Poland: Katarzyna Kozłowska, Anna Szczecińska
Portugal: Cecilia de Morais, Cláudia Afonso, Maria Daniel Vaz de Almeida
Spain: Silvia Bofill, Yolanda Lacasta
Sweden: Margaretha Nydahl, Jenny Ekblad
Romana Roccaldo and Claudia Arganini earlier revised the draft
Brenda Davy did the final revision of the whole paper
Many thanks to Helen Marshall for the data files she arranged and provided to the whole Food in Later Life Team.
Many thanks to the Swedish team for the permission to use their filled in templates as examples for all of us.
Authors thanks very much indeed all seniors that participated in the study providing their experience. All participants signed their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.
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