Food insecurity is a public health issue in Western countries, including the UK. Being food insecure means older adults may not access sufficient nutritious, safe and socially acceptable food, leading to a higher risk of malnutrition.
We conducted a qualitative study of 25 households with men and women aged 60-95 years to investigate how older adults access food and to explore social capital, which might contribute to food security or prevent malnutrition. We conducted participant-led kitchen tours, interviews, photo and video elicitation across multiple household visits. In addition, we brought stakeholders together from a range of sectors in a workshop to explore how they might respond to our empirical findings, through playing a serious game based on scenarios drawn from our data. This was a successful way to engage a diverse audience to identify possible solutions to threats to food security in later life.
Analysis of the data showed that older people’s physical and mental health status and the local food environment often had a negative impact on food security. Older people leveraged social capital through reciprocal bonding and bridging social networks which supported the maintenance of food security.
Data were collected before COVID-19 but the pandemic amplifies the utility of our study findings. Many social elements associated with food practices as well as how people shop have changed because of COVID-19 and other global and national events, including a cost-of-living crisis. To prevent ongoing adverse impacts on food security, focus and funding should be directed to re-establishment of social opportunities and rebuilding bridging social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Research Online
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2023


  • health and wellbeing
  • food practices
  • older people
  • vulnerability
  • social capital
  • ageing
  • social networks
  • food security


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