Older Australians’ perceptions and practices in relation to a healthy diet for old age: a qualitative study

Document Type


Publication details

Brownie, S & Coutts, RA 2013, 'Older Australians’ perceptions and practices in relation to a healthy diet for old age: a qualitative study', The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 125-129.

Published version available from:




To explore older independently-living Australians’ perceptions and practices about what constitutes a healthy diet for older people.


Qualitative methodology, focus groups.


Independently-living retirees in Northern NSW, Australia.


A total of 29 participants in five focus groups, ranging in age from 60–93 years, with a mean age of 73.3 ± 8.8years; the majority (79%) were women.


Thematic analysis of the focus group interviews revealed four themes that best represent older people’s perceptions and practices in relation to healthy eating for old age. These included: 1) healthy foods — participants believed in a hierarchy of perceived healthfulness or importance of foods; 2) quantity — participants believed that ageing was associated with a reduced dietary intake and less need for meat; 3) personal circumstances — participants acknowledged that food costs, social situations and health conditions influenced their food choices; and 4) good intention — participants acknowledged that the desire to regain or maintain wellbeing and to preserve health positively influenced their food choices. Participants were unaware of the national nutrient targets for older Australians.


The trend towards reduced dietary intake of meat and the indifference to dairy products expressed by many participants in this study suggests that they are at risk of not achieving the requirements for protein and calcium in particular. Failure to meet these age-adjusted nutrient targets has important implications for the health and functional capacity of older people.

Find in your library