Do Aged Care Residents and Families Agree on Food? [2024 Mini-Report]

Posted 17th April 2024 | 3 minute read

Written by Jesse Gramenz 

an aged care chef serving residents at st vincent's kew

  • Summary: While aged care residents and families agree in most areas on food, the two most preferred aspects of food are 'Quality' for families and 'Variety' for residents
  • Other aspects of food including 'Temperature', 'Dining Experience' and 'Nutrition' also ranked highly for families, but all outshone by 'Variety' for residents
  • What's next?: There's more potential to explore the 'why' behind the differences in preferences. What other differences exist between residents and family in aged care?

How it started

As a part of ongoing surveys aimed at continuously improving the dining experience at St Vincent's aged care, residents and families are asked to answer two simple questions:

  1. Do you like the food options offered at St Vincent's?
  2. Can you elaborate on your answer?

Qualitative responses are gathered based on these questions and are then sorted into 8 key categories to compare.

The categories include:

  1. Quality
  2. Variety
  3. Temperature
  4. Meal simplicity
  5. Dining experience
  6. Nutrition
  7. Dietary restrictions
  8. Taste

So, what did the answers and subsequent analysis reveal?

responses from aged care residents on food

Residents expressed different opinions on food which informed internal research and the subsequent report

The answer

The 2024 report revealed that while families and residents were aligned in areas, it was the emphasis placed on those areas that differed vastly.

family food preferences in aged care in 2024

Quality was a massive factor for families with variety and temperature close behind

aged care resident food preferences data 2024

When it comes to residents, Variety reigned supreme with quality and temperature far behind

Because families play such an enormous role in aged care, the data in the report is extremely valuable in understanding the relationships between family and residents.

report title page

You can download the report by clicking the image above or by going here

Why the differences?

While the differences in food expectations cannot be explained through this report alone, there are 2 potential reasons that could be explored as a part of future research:

1. Residents are the ones actually eating the food

This isn't a mind-blowing idea, but it does explain a lot of the differences between residents and families. 

For example, going on a diet, cutting out salt or drinking a kale smoothie all sound great for my health -- but aren't exactly going to make my tastebuds sing.

2. There is a clear generational divide between families and their loved ones living in aged care

Whether it's because of the stage of life we're at, or because of intrinsic generational values, age plays a significant factor in what we value and when. Food is no different.

For the full rationale behind these two differences, you can check out the full report here.

Parting thoughts

While there were some hypotheses proposed in the report as to why these differences between residents and families exist, it's obvious that there's a lot more research that needs to happen before making any solid claims about why.

Family want to see their loved ones safe with good quality, nutritious. Residents want to live their best lives with variety and great tasting food -- frankly, who wouldn't want to live that way?

It's all of these balances that come with great care. Affording residents dignity of risk so that they can make their own decisions is a key part of dignified care and sometimes balancing that with family expectations can prove to be incredibly challenging for aged care homes.

Still have questions?

st vincent's call centre worker