Eating experiences in later life: researching the meal provisioning practices of older people

There are currently 15 million people aged 60+ in the UK (ONS 2015). By 2040 around 1 in 4 people will be aged over 65 years (ONS 2016), many of whom will live alone. Research suggests those that live alone eat alone the most, and we eat less when alone and more when in company.

However, we know very little about how older people who live alone go about the provisioning and eating of meals, for example, they may cook and eat alone at home in private, or they may use other more public channels, such as cafes or social clubs, either alone or with others.

This research aims to understand practices and experiences of meal provision for older adults to improve and achieve a good sense of wellbeing in later life.

The research location is Blackpool and The Fylde, a popular destination for living and holidaying among older adults.

We are taking an ethnographic approach to connect with older people in their everyday places including their homes, supermarkets, lunch and social clubs.

Project objectives

Three core questions guide the research:

  • How do older adults’ daily meal routines affect their levels of food consumption and social participation?
  • What support mechanisms are important to older people and how do they experience these?

About the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI)

SCI aims to bring insight and clarity to a key aspect of the sustainability challenge: the role of consumption.

SCI’s cutting-edge research lies in five key fields; consumption, cultural change, innovation, politics and social justice. This work responds to multiple sustainability challenges, from climate change and resource scarcity to social inequality and environmental injustice.

SCIs’ work focuses on the processes of consumption and production that underpin such challenges across a variety of areas, including food, energy, housing and transport. How do older people experience eating alone and what pleasures or challenges may arise from this?

PhD student

Ema Johnson; Sustainable Consumption Institute, The University of Manchester


  • Prof Dale Southerton; Sustainable Consumption Institute, The University of Manchester
  • Dr Luke Yates; Sustainable Consumption Institute, The University of Manchester


Sustainable Consumption Institute, The University of Manchester