Addressing Senior Obesity

Researchers at Victoria University of Wellington found that New Zealand’s aged care sector is in urgent need to accommodate to their senior citizens living with obesity. More support is necessary for this population as well as the need to reduce the negative stigma associated with age and weight.

Dr Caz Hales and Dr Helen Rook from the University’s Faculty of Health studied a range of facilities across the North Island to discover how accommodating the aged care sector was for older people with obesity.

“Facilities did not have the right equipment, spaces, or training needed to support these residents,” said Dr Hales. “The processes for admitting residents to these facilities were also reported as fraught with issues. These barriers cause problems for the residents, for the carers in these facilities, and for the system.”

With 24 percent of adults over the age of 75 living with obesity and one percent living with extreme obesity, research shows that there has been little done in aged care facilities to support these senior citizens. The research found that while there was a high degree of compassion and willingness to provide care to these residents, there were existing barriers that prevented the caregivers from providing this care.

“Changes need to be made in order to avoid increased financial burden on the sector and on residents and their families, and under-resourced workforce, and stigmatisation of people living with obesity,” said Dr Hales.

Possible solutions like a review from the Ministry of Health on the development of standards and an infrastructure strategy for the aged care sector would improve life for those living with obesity. As well as a District Health Board review on the transition process from hospitals to care facilities.

“We think that it is critical for the delivery of equitable care for older adults with extreme obesity that all sectors continue to work collaboratively together to develop pragmatic and person-centred solutions,” said Dr Rook.

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