‘You’ve got to be old to go there': psychosocial barriers and facilitators to social eating in older adults.

Anisa Saeed, Jenny Fisher, Zinnia Mitchell-Smith, Laura J. E. Brown

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Background and Objectives: Social eating is associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits for older adults. Previous research has identified some of the practical barriers that may limit social eating, such as cost and access to public transport. However, little is known about the psychosocial issues that can affect older adults’ engagement with social eating. This study examines psychosocial barriers and facilitators to attending community-based social eating opportunities for older adults.

Design and Methods: Forty-two older people aged between 59-89 years living in
Manchester, UK, participated in semi-structured interviews or focus groups about their experiences and perceptions of social eating opportunities. Interview transcripts were analysed using an inductive thematic analyses. As there are known gender differences in relation to attitudes and behaviours relating to food and social activities, a framework analysis was applied to explore how these themes were differentially expressed by gender.

Results: Four themes were identified that related to the importance of: 1) offering more than food; 2) participants’ social identity; 3) taking the first step; and 4) embarrassment and self-consciousness about physical health. Gender differences related to perceptions of the relevance and attractiveness of social eating, and the role of social support.

Discussion and Implications: This study improves our understanding of older adults’ social eating experiences and highlights clear strategies by which social eating opportunities could be made more attractive, accessible, and acceptable to older adults.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Gerontologist
Early online date7 Sept 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Sept 2019


  • commensality
  • gender differences
  • wellbeing
  • psychological issues


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