Sensory preferences and requirements amongst Swedish older adults with motoric eating difficulties
Background: Finger foods, foods that can be eaten without cutlery, may be a strategy to increase autonomy and food intake amongst older adults with motoric eating difficulties. In order to develop optimal finger foods, knowledge about sensory preferences and requirements in the target population is needed.
Objective: To assess sensory preferences and requirements amongst Swedish older adults with motoric eating difficulties.
Design: Check-all-that-apply (CATA), a methodology that does not require much cognitive effort, was used to collect survey data about sensory preferences and requirements for everyday meals from 15 older adults with motoric eating difficulties. The CATA-questionnaire was structured according to the Swedish meal order (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and fika) and consisted of 29 attributes compiled through a literature review.
Results: Through both qualitative and quantitative data analysis, it was found that flavourful, flavour intensity, spicy and both Swedish and ethnic flavours were important attributes related to food flavour. Although most participants preferred crispy and coarse textures, a few participants found soft, smooth and fine textures important. Moreover, colourful meals and serving components separated on the plate were important for the appearance of lunch and dinner.
Discussion: A diverse range of flavours, flavour enhancement and a balance between the basic tastes and spiciness may increase the flavour perception. Finger foods should be offered in the full range of flavours available to the general older adults’ population. The variation in the demand for texture may be related to chewing and swallowing difficulties, and textures that require moderate chewing and easy swallowing are, therefore, optimal for finger foods. Separating meal components on the plate may make it easier to distinguish the components.
Conclusion: Chemosensory impairments, chewing and swallowing difficulties, and visual disturbances are important to consider in the development of finger foods.
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