Seniors tap screen to keep tabs on nutrition

U. SHEFFIELD (UK) — A new touchscreen computer program is designed to detect illness from malnutrition in older adults by measuring what they eat and drink in their own homes.

Malnutrition is a major public health problem that is easily overlooked, researchers say. While it affects all ages, older adults are particularly affected, with 1 in 3 who live independently considered to be at risk.

The Novel Assessment of Nutrition and Aging (NANA) system is the result of a three-year project to develop a simple-to-use system for measuring diet, cognition, mood, and physical function. The system makes it easy for anyone to enter items of food and drink consumed throughout the day, both as complete meals and snacks. NANA keeps track of what someone actually consumes by comparing nutrition levels before and after eating and drinking.

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In addition to information about diet, NANA also is able to measure cognitive function, mood, and physical activity, all of which play a role in nutrition.

“Being able to eat and drink properly is vital for keeping well and living a good life,” says project lead Arlene Astell, senior lecturer in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews.

“We have worked with older adults to make NANA something that people would want to have in their homes and use every day.”

Malnutrition is not confined to older people at home.  Reports suggest that more than 50 percent of hospital patients do not eat the full meal provided and up to 30 percent of residents in nursing homes may not finish their lunch.

“NANA is a very simple to use device that will dramatically reduce the number of people dying from malnutrition,” says Tony Hill, a representative of the New Dynamics of Aging Older People’s reference group and member of the NANA Advisory Panel.

“For organizations such as Sanctuary Care who look after older people in their own homes, in extra care accommodation, and in care homes, ensuring they eat well is a priority,” says Steve Wood, Managing Director of Sanctuary Care, and a partner in the NANA project.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and at the universities of Bath and Reading contributed to the program’s design and testing.

Source: University of Sheffield