It is estimated that by 2025 more than 20% of Europeans will
be 65 or over, with a particularly rapid increase in the number
of over 80s. Chronic diseases, malnutrition, weakened immune
system and other health factors increase risk of foodborne
illness and hazardous nutritional habits in elderly. Food safety
and nutrition security are essential to promote active ageing. In
order to evaluate elderly’s perceptions, practices and attitudes
with respect to food safety, an articulate questionnaire was
elaborated to investigate knowledge and critical aspects about
unsafe food-handling practices and nutrition habits, including
This study was conducted in Gemelli Teaching Hospital, in
Rome, Italy, between April 2014 and March 2015. Were
interviewed 201 elderly 65 years old attending the Geriatrics
Ward, the Outpatient Unit and the Gym of the Centre of
Aging Medicine. Data were analyzed by means of frequencies
and mean and standard deviations.
The mean age of the sample was 74 years (SD = 7.7). The
subjective perception of safe nutrition is high, in fact 64.2%
of the elderly respondents think to have a balanced diet.
Interviewed people get information about proper nutrition
mainly from TV, papers and Internet (30%) and from health
workers (34.8%) such as dietitian and nutritionist whereas
only 15.4% from general practitioners.
Regarding food safety and hygiene, 33.8% refers to consume
expired food, even more than once a month. Between 80%
and 90% of all the participants affirm to follow all the food
safety practices during preparation and cooking, even though
49.3% defrost food at room temperature before preparation.
These results underline the need for empowerment of elderly
with respect to nutritional health and food safety. In fact,
specific and targeted educational interventions for the elderly
and their care-givers could be promoted in order to improve
adoption of recommended food safety practices and safe
nutritional habits among older adults.
This study focuses on factors on which act to promote
active ageing and to prevent foodborne illness in elderly
Educational and preventive interventions for the elderly and
their care-givers are a key measure of public health to stay
healthy into old age
- Food safety
- Nutritional habits