The Importance of Nutrition for Older Australians

A look into how nutrition for older Australians guarantees better health in aged care and how to promote this.

This article will talk about:

  • 1. Nutrition & Dementia
  • 2. Nutrition & Dignity
  • 3. Nutrition & Mental Health
  • 4. Nutrition & Weight Loss + Injury Prevention
  • BONUS! Quick Summary
Nutrition in aged care is an essential part of ensuring a healthy mind and body for older Australians.

Eating right is a fundamental part of our health, and it becomes even more important so as we grow older. It takes up a large portion of our day and has a huge influence on our physical and mental health.

So, here are the ways in which food can affect the lives of older Australians and ways to promote it.

1. Nutrition & Dementia

As they say – healthy body, healthy mind!

General health is becoming a critical part of tackling dementia, and that includes what people are eating as well.

Avoiding fatty or sugary foods that cause high cholesterol levels or blood pressure is very important to maintaining a healthy heart and mind and reducing the chances of strokes and heart attacks that can deteriorate brain health.

Older Australians with dementia or other diagnoses can also be at risk of becoming malnourished. It is vital to be aware of issues that may occur when looking after them. People living with dementia at home can often forget mealtimes, and what they have eaten before. They can develop problems chewing or swallowing their food and even be unable to recognise food and drinks they are given. These factors can lead to further deterioration of health and mental functioning.

However, aged care facilities are able to recognise the extra care needed to support residents with dementia.

  • There plenty of training programs – like Dementia training Australian – available to educate staff and carers about what they should expect and know to watch out for.

2. Nutrition & Dignity

Food (while being delicious and nutritious!) presents an opportunity to promote the dignity and independence of older Australians.

Older Australians in carer situations can suffer loss of independence during meal times with carers scheduling strict eating times, serving food that people need assistance eating or simply cooking something they do not like.

However, food provides opportunities for celebration and socialization that contributes to a lot to how we live our lives. There are plenty of ways to do this for residents in carer situations.

  • Make mealtimes more warm and casual by allowing people the time and space they want during their meals.
  • Creating a friendly eating environment means that people are likely to sit for longer and eat more. This will help avoid issues like malnourishment
  • Do not restrict food to set meal times, and have food available at all times. Small snacks like fruit, muesli bars, and yoghurt should be made accessible for whenever people are hungry (and avoid older residents becoming irritable and ‘hangry’).
  • Promote independence at mealtimes by providing finger food for those who are struggling with cutlery. This will give people the ability to feed themselves instead of needing their carers to assist them. It is important that people have the option to do things for themselves for as long as possible

Use these times to ensure dignity and choice so mealtimes can become empowering for those involved.

Good nutrition and simple food choices can be empowering for older Australians in aged care and care situations.

3. Nutrition & Mental Health

Malnourishment can often lead to lower energy levels in older Australians, causing less engagement with daily activities and social interaction. All of this can affect overall mental health, including links to anxiety and depression.

 However, the solution can be as simple as having a nice meal with friends and family.

  • Have special ‘food events’ at home that spice up routine meal plans. This can be for a birthday or even national food-themed nights and is an excellent way to encourage eating. It establishes a festival mood and creates a more enthusiastic kitchen.
  • Buffet food is an exciting way to offer people freedom of choice with what they want to eat.

4. Nutrition & Weight Loss + Injury Prevention

It is very common for older Australians to lose weight when aging in a carer situation. Unfortunately, there is a cultural belief that this weight loss is normal – or even desired – for older Australians.

However, once an older person becomes malnourished it becomes more difficult for them to recover to a state of health.

Malnourishment can severally impact the everyday lives of residents. It increases the risks of falls, pressure ulcers, and even delirium. It slows down the healing process for injury recovery. And it can further degrade the lifestyle of residents already living with disabilities and dementia.

There needs to be an overall culture change when caring for the aged in order to tackle the issue.

  • Watch and become familiar with the amounts people in your care are eating and see if this is enough to ensure their health. Pay attention to make sure that they are receiving proper nutrition and food intake.
  • Consult the older person, other members of family or dieticians. Decide the best approach to take together and create a strategy that works for everyone involved.

At no point should anyone be ‘force-feed’ or pressured to eat more. It is vital that you make sure to always respect the independence of residents.

This creates a non-invasive way to approach the issue and steer behaviour towards more beneficial ones, not just tackling the issue superficially, but getting the support of family and friends for a better solution.

Promoting nutrition within aged care will involve a culture change within the kitchen.

BONUS! Quick Summary

For those who are time-poor (or skim reading), here is a quick summary of what carers can do to promote nutrition.

  • Talk to the person, ask them what type of food they want to eat and when they want to eat it. This will help establish their independence and exercise their freedom of choice which will improve their lifestyle as a whole.
  • Talk to friends and families, this is a good way of establishing what their old eating habits were like and detecting any major changes.
  • Consult dieticians, sometimes a professional voice is best when it comes to health. This is especially true if there are any dietary requirements or if injury recovery is involved.
  • Include buffet food, this does not have to be an everyday thing, but an occasion buffet selection allows older persons ultimate freedom in the food they are eating.
  • Make meals more social, by making mealtimes more friendly and engaging people are more likely to sit for longer and eat more. Consider having carers, family or friends join and sit with the person to build relationships and create a friendly eating environment.
  • Include finger foods, for those living with dementia and other cognitive disabilities, this is a way to retain independence when tools like knives and forks can’t be used
  • Celebrate birthdays and festivals with food, a nice way to ensure that food becomes something fun for older Australians and those cooking. Party occasions also are a nice way to diversify food menus and mix up routine menus.

If you want any more information, there are some great tips for promoting health and dignity with food from the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Join the Community Art Exhibition Fighting Dementia

With over half of the residential aged care population living with dementia, Twilight Aged Care is fighting back and building support for cognitive therapy with their 2019 Art Exhibition.

The 2019 Art Exhibition and Cocktail Party will be featuring canvas paintings from aged care residents from across the Twilight Aged Care homes, some of whom themselves, are living with dementia. The event aims to raise donations and display the artistic prowess of the North Sydney Residents.

The event will include catering, raffles, and live music on the night, with a chance to talk to the artists and purchase paintings.

This is the 2nd Annual Exhibition following the success of last year’s art show. Artworks this year will be more diverse in style and size and include large scale oil paintings, watercolours, smaller acrylic pieces, and even gold leaf.

Julianne Walker, the volunteer coordinator, and event organiser, says that community support for the art program is very important. These events help show support for older Australians and aged care residents living with dementia.

Julianne says, “Art Therapy sessions have countless benefits for older Australians. It allows the expression of complex thoughts and emotions, helps alleviate anxiety and depression, improves motor skills and cognitive functioning, and reduces social isolation”.

Dementia is currently the single largest cause of disability for Australian’s over 65 years old, and is a serious threat to the older Australian population, a large majority of this who live in aged care. Art therapy participants are technically stimulated during the program, which helps in slowing down the symptoms of dementia and cognitive decline.

The exhibition is being held on the 29th of October at 16 Punt Rd, Gladesville 6 pm-8 pm.

100th Birthday for Tom!

Tom’s 100th Birthday never stops!

After being visited by his fellow Navy officers, Glades Bay Gardens threw an afternoon treat for him last Friday.

It was a wonderful event, with family and friends visiting as well. Ramina, and the Glades Bay Gardens cooks, were in the kitchen at 5 o’clock in the morning getting ready for the celebration. And Julianne lost count of the number of balloons she had blown up.

Sai, our facility manager, gave a small speech about Tom’s life in the military and his life now as a kind and engaging presence within the Glades Bay community.

Special highlights included Ramina’s delectable blueberry cake and the mini curry puffs.

Happy Birthday, Tom.

Intergenerational Success with Montessori

The children from the Montessori School and their grand-friends enjoyed a Mad Hatters Tea Party; celebrating the end of their busy 6-month research project, focusing on the benefits of an Intergenerational Program.

The Children’s House of Montessori wearing their crazy hats and socks for the Intergenerational Program.

For the party, the Children’s House of Montessori and the staff dressed up with crazy hats and socks. And the children played games and held performances for the residents.

The project was based off international studies showing the benefits of multigenerational activities and paired this with Montessori principles. The program saw many positive improvements since it began in April, including a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and social isolation.

One of the Twilight residents, Elisabeth, with one of the children of Montessori House for the Intergenerational Program

The research component of the intergenerational program is now complete. But the strong connection formed between the children and their grand-friends has resulted in the program being extended for the near future.

Beecroft Women’s Shelter House Soft Opening

The Twilight Board, and representatives from Link Housing, Women’s Community Shelter and Hornsby-Shire Council at the soft opening for the Beecroft Women’s Shelter.

We are delighted to have seen Jamieson House transform into Beecroft House with a lot of love and effort.

The home will provide accommodation and support services for 20 women over 55 who are suffering homelessness. This is a major issue within the Sydney area. A recent report from the Australian Human Rights Commission has observed an increasing population of homelessness in older women. And Sunrise reported on the importance of shelters like Beecroft to help aid these women in need.

This project would not have been possible without the partnership of local organisations and the surrounding community. Groups like Link Housing, the Generous and the Grateful, National Projects and Maintenance, Pymble Ladies College, the Goodwin Brothers, and many more, have volunteered their time and resources to make this happen.

The charity and spirit of all those involved has amazed us at Twilight. We are very excited to see this project come to fruition.

Homeless Women Crisis

Homelessness can affect anybody – and now women over 55 are the fastest growing demographic of homeless people.We spoke to experts to understand why, and if anything is being done to help.

Posted by Sunrise on Saturday, 10 August 2019

Twilight Providing Jamieson House to Women’s Shelter

Jamieson House Twilight (now referred to as Beecroft House) before its renovations.

Twilight Aged Care is participating in a local initiative to temporarily repurpose Jamieson House Twilight as a home for displaced women over 55.

The Beecroft House: Housing Partnership Project will provide financial and residential support to the homeless, and give 20 women housing accommodation for the next 2 years. The project will convert Jamieson into a safe and welcoming space and give the building a new name, ‘Beecroft House’. The initiative aims to enhance the lives of these women and give them independence through housing pathways and support services.

The Beecroft House: Housing Partnership Project is the collaboration of the Hornsby council and over 6 organisations in North Sydney area, including the Women’s Shelter, Twilight Aged Care and Link Housing. The majority of these companies, including Twilight, are offering services to the Women’s Shelter project free of charge, including the lease for the building itself.

Twilight Aged Care contacted the Hornsby Ku Ring-Gai Women’s Shelter and offered two year access to the building rent free. Neil Wendt, the CEO of Twilight, said

“Twilight was founded 100 years ago to support women that required assistance. This wonderful initiative goes to the roots of the company’s values”.

This spirit of charity is shared by organisations like The Generous and the Grateful, who have donated the furniture for the building. The organisation works alongside 5 star hotels undergoing refurbishment, and saved any ‘outdated’ furniture for the women’s shelter. The National Projects and Maintenance group, are also providing their services and 40 workers to renovate Beecroft House for free.

mage from Beecroft House. At the Beecroft House: Housing Partnering evening

Maraget Maljkovic, Chief Operating Officer at Link Housing, spoke about the great need for affordable housing at Beecroft House‘s community information afternoon. Maljkovic said the housing partnership is especially important for older women in the Sydney area where living prices are high. In this way, Beecroft House will provide opportunities for women to get back on their feet in times of financial or personal crisis.

The project aims to work closely with local people and businesses. The Women’s Community Shelter has set up a Facebook page for people to see the construction progress. The page offers opportunities for the community to help out the home with activities such as gardening, painting and cleaning.

The gardens of Jamieson House (now referred to as Beecroft House).

Beecroft House is hosting an Open Day on Friday 9th August with free tours of the home, to mark the beginning of the project for interested members of the community. For more information, click here.


15 Benefits of Volunteering

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family, and the community. For some volunteers it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.

Here are 15 benefits of volunteering.

1. Lowers stress and anxiety

Volunteering is said to be a great way to deal with stress and anxiety that affect so many. Vice says that this is mainly to do with busyness being a great distraction and barrier to negative thoughts and feelings. Volunteering also hold opportunity for plentiful social contact which can put people in a good mood.

2. Supporting those who need it

Those who volunteer help the community as a whole. You are working in the areas that need it most for the people who need it most. Time spent supporting not-for-profit organisations and services is often desperately wanted, and this sense of value from your work will be felt not by yourself but those around you in the larger neighbourhood.

3. Learning relevant skills

There are a tonne of skills associated with volunteer work that will be beneficial for both work and life opportunities. Seek has stated that volunteers are known to have essential (and industry recognised) skills, like the ability to work well in a group environment, problem solve, lead groups, work under pressure and time management. This is also complimented by more niche talents that some training programs include, like first aid, organisational management, and IT know-how. All this builds to create a comprehensive skill set that is useful for anyone is almost any situation!

4. Increases confidence

Volunteering in general will give you a sense of self-worth and pride in your everyday life. Doing good work for good people installs pride and will make you feel good about yourself and what you are doing.

Volunteering also often involves taking on extra responsibility and tasks – which will build your confidence in managing multiple projects. You will trust yourself more and develop yours skills in difference and sometimes challenging environments.

5. Making new friends

Volunteering is not only something to do with a friend, but a way of making friends, no matter your age.

It is a great way to introduce yourself to new social circles and make new connections. Helpguide.org describes it as a way of actively meeting and introducing yourself to other people. There is a likemindedness in individuals supporting not-for-profit organisations and often you will find similar passions in the volunteers around you. Despite the variety of backgrounds and personalities of volunteers, they are almost guaranteed to be incredibly kind and looking to make friends during the volunteering process.

6. Gain a physically active lifestyle

With such a focus on health these days, it’s a surprise that volunteering is not being promoted as an excellent source of wellbeing.

Live Science says that volunteers have been found to live longer and have generally healthier lives. This is because they walk more on average and carry out more physical chores. However, even those who work in less active roles receive this health boost, by developing a higher degree of mental flexibility in their ability to handle multiple complex operations.

Volunteering can give you a sense of purpose and productivity

7. Brings a sense of purpose

This is perfect for those looking to have more meaning in their lives. It is an easy way to do good in your spare time, and make a different to those around you while also adding a sense of direction to your life.

8. Good for the resume

Volunteering is the perfect way to make your resume stand out for a potential employer at any stage of your career journey. It is a great way of showing that you have a good sense of character, compassion and actively work in a team.

According to ENHANCV, 82% of hiring professionals prefer applicants with volunteer experience. It means that the applicant is driven by social god and that they have more skills than simple, task related ones.

9. Gain new experiences

Volunteering allows you to meet people and do things that you would been exposed to be. Volunteering lets you hear fascinating life stories, work with enthusiastic and passionate people and shape people’s lives for good.

These new experiences allow you to witness the lives of others and can be powerful memories that shift your perspectives of life.

10. Embracing passions

Volunteers are able to bring their unique talents and interests to other people’s lives. Organisations, like us at Twilight, have had great success from volunteers indulging in interests like art and gardening and engaging residents in these activities.

11. Fosters community growth

It has been found that communities with a strong volunteer network help community growth. Since volunteers literally help the community by filling in the gaps in funding and resources. NSW Volunteering has stated its benefits in promoting overall health in the local area, saying that volunteers “make an extraordinary contribution to Australian society” and are the “lifeblood of our community.”

12. Builds social skills

Communications skills are a necessity in our modern day. And volunteering is not only good to make friends and also have fun, but can help you later in industry work and everyday life.

Diverse Voices, says that volunteering is the perfect setting to practice ad develop social skills, not matter if you are an extrovert or an introvert.

13. Growing your reference network

A reference from a not-for-profit organisation can speak more about your character than a family member or an old employer.

Volunteering also generates good word about you within the community and with specific businesses while connecting you with industry personalities.

Volunteering is a perfect opportunity to bring care and compassion to people’s lives.

14. Creates internship and employment opportunities

Volunteering can builds skills, as well as placing you in an environment that may lead to career opportunities.

Monster says that volunteering is a perfect stepping stone to employment and will add professional experience to your resume.

15. Makes you happier

If you have ever volunteered, you may have noticed that you felt fantastic afterward. Maybe you saw a little boost in your mood, or enjoyed being part of a team.

It is the perfect way to escape from the routine of retirement, work, university or school and accomplishment so much than you could alone.


How to Volunteer?

Twilight has revitalised its volunteer program which includes a comprehensive orientation, training and handbook. Each of the homes is fortunate to have several volunteers and we are always happy to welcome new members into our community.  If you are interested in volunteering with Twilight Aged Care please contact our Volunteer Coordinator on 02 9414 4400 or email: volunteer@twilight.org.au[/vc_column_text]

Winter knitting donation for women’s shelter

Eleven blankets, 8 pairs of socks, 5 large teddies, 3 small teddies, 3 patch-work bedspreads, 2 scarves, 2 beanies, and one pair of gloves. These were just some of the items donated by Twilight to the Hornsby Ku Ring-Gai Women’s Shelter last Wednesday.

Anne Sheehan from the Women’s Shelter, and ladies of Horton House, Sheila and Jeanette, handing over their knitting donations.

Those living at both Twilight’s Horton House and Glades Bay Gardens had been busy knitting over the past months. This large collection of woollen clothes, blankets and toys was officially handed over at a morning tea at Horton House.

Anne Sheehan, a representative from the women’s shelter, thanked the ladies of Horton House for their “kindness and generosity”. She spoke of how the Hornsby Ku Ring-Gai shelter relies on donations from the community. The organisation currently supports over 450 women going through periods of homelessness due to domestic violence and poverty. These large numbers mean that there is a ‘huge need’ for donation and support.

Sheehan also says that she is ‘excited’ about Twilight’s converting Jamison House into a transitional home for women over 55 years old. Twilight is leasing the building for 2 years during its renovations as a source of accommodation and support programs for women in need.

The program will highlight the origins of Twilight itself, to support older, financially vulnerable women. Twilight was established as a social initiative in 1914, led by the Lady Mayoress, Miss Florence Clarke. As Sheehan says, Twilight is “going back to its roots and helping the gentle women in poverty”. The project will continue Twilight’s traditions and support the women who need it today.

Sheila pictured here at Horton House, thanking other residents for their contributions to the knitting donations.

Sheila, one of the residents at Horton House, was the ‘task master’ behind the project, and has been knitting since she was a young girl. She says that this is a wonderful opportunity to use her passions to give back. Sheila made sure to thank the other residents who knitted, especially, Jeanette and her daughter Margot, who donated a large amount of wool to the home to ensure that the project could continue.

As the Australian winter season comes into full swing, the residents of Twilight are determined to continue the program, and produce more blankets and clothes for the women.