Food is wrapped up in all kinds of emotions. Take Christmas as just one example, how many of us have vivid memories of festive times gone by that are reignited each year with the delicious smells of roast turkey in the oven, rich Christmas pudding, mince pies and mulled wine? When you live alone these memories can be painful reminders of your current solitude.
Whilst most of us are worrying about what the festive season will do to our waistlines many of our older community members sit at home alone eating very little. Food is to be enjoyed, right, and it’s undeniably true that it tastes better when you share the experience with friends and family. It figures then that isolation can supress our appetite; as we age, we are less likely to eat well and this is compounded if we live alone and have nobody to cook and care for.
Fill the Emptiness
It is not hard to see why loneliness has a negative health impact and not just on mental health. Inadequate nutrient intake coupled with decreased mobility can lead to weight and muscle loss. This can be the start of a downward spiral as weight and muscle loss result in weakness, feeling tired and an inability to participate in daily activities, which in turn supresses appetites further.
The social element of eating is really important and a simple home-cooked meal shared in the company of others is the perfect antidote to loneliness. Next time you put a casserole in the oven add in an extra portion, invite a neighbour over to enjoy a meal with your family or drop a dish around and sit with them for a chat while they tuck in. Company is nourishment for the soul and loneliness pangs scream out that you need others around you, just like hunger pangs are a signal that you need to eat.
Hunger for belonging
The craving to belong is at the heart of human nature. When we feel cut off from others, we atrophy and naturally retreat into ourselves. If you spot the signs of loneliness, there is so much you can do to help to make older people feel integrated. Feelings of loneliness aren’t the reserve of the old either – if you recognise the signs in yourself one of the best things you can do is reach out to others and offer your company.
Baked with kindness
So, when you dig out your favourite gingerbread recipe along with the holly and star shaped cutters, bake a few extra and hand deliver them along with your #onemorecard. The warmth of friendship will fill the emptiness.