Tackling malnutrition in older people living at home in Scotland

Edinburgh Community Food Leithers Together Case Study

Catherine Fyfe from Edinburgh Community Food tells us about how they have adapted and responded to COVID19 through their 'Leithers Together' project.

"Edinburgh Community Food is working in partnership with our long-running partners Pilmeny Development Project (PDP) to support their vulnerable older people in the community of Leith. Pilmeny currently supports 150 older people, 3 of whom own a computer and have internet access. The Covid-19 crisis has been especially difficult for Pilmeny's older people with many reporting feelings of severe isolation and issues with mental and physical health. While many of us are more connected online than ever before, staying in touch with friends, family, communities and groups, many older people in our community, however, do not have internet access. They are therefore unable to connect in the same ways which can in turn increase feelings of isolation.

In response to this we have created a dementia friendly health and wellbeing newsletter 'Leithers Together' which features nutritional information, recipes, tips and submissions from members to share with each other. This will include information on how to eat a healthy balanced diet in older age, tips around reducing risk of malnutrition, dehydration and sarcopenia, tips around exercise at home/seated exercise and support around mental health.

The newsletter has been provided to over 200 PDP members with contact details to contribute to the next edition to share stories, recipes, and tips with one another. To further support PDPs older members, we will also be running the REHIS Eating Well for Older People course for 10 staff members and volunteers."

Our project has been able to target the issue of social isolation during a time when older people and especially those shielding have no other choice but to isolate. Their isolation is further increased when there is no internet/computer access when many activities have moved online. The newsletter is an opportunity for older people to feel that sense of community, feel less lonely and be reminded that there is a community of people that are thinking about them and supporting them.

This is in addition to specifically tailored nutritional information which promotes a healthier balanced diet in older age. It also includes recipes/tips from other members which we hope will increase some peer support and community connection.

Upon receiving the newsletter members responded positively, commenting on the benefits of having something interesting and tailored specifically to them.

In our first edition we received a top tip about 'Hinging Aboot Soup' which one of the members remembers during WW2 as a way to make a meal from whatever food was 'hinging aboot'. From this we provided members with a recipe for minestrone soup.

As the first edition went out in June and we hope to have more quotes and stories soon!

We feel that this project has definitely enriched our partnership with Pilmeny Development Project. As we are based in Leith ourselves, we feel proud to be able to provide something a bit extra to our community. We are excited to hear more feedback and hopefully get more stories and recipes from the community!"