They should be a lifeline for pensioners who live alone, so... Why DO online grocers price out the elderly?

  • Today, online ordering is a speedy process carried out on digital devices

  • Customers typically required to spend £25-£60 to qualify for home delivery 

  • It is a high bar for a pensioner living alone – and on a tight budget – to reach

Last year, internet grocery shopping was worth £12.6 billion, but many elderly people are missing out on this retail revolution, due to high minimum spends and expensive delivery charges.  Today, online ordering is a speedy process carried out on smartphones, tablets and laptops. There are even self-driving cool boxes that can deliver groceries.  

But retailers are targeting higher spending households such as families, with customers typically required to spend between £25 and £60 to qualify for home delivery. It is a high bar for a pensioner living alone – and on a tight budget – to reach.  Even providers not demanding a minimum basket spend still charge sizeable delivery fees, presenting another barrier for elderly shoppers.


Wendy Wills, professor of food and public health at the University of Hertfordshire, advises supermarkets on the needs of older shoppers.  But she is frustrated how little progress has been made to help the country’s ageing population.  She says: ‘I’m astonished the supermarkets aren’t doing more. They could introduce looser rules with low-cost delivery slots at quiet times as well as reducing the amount older people need to spend to qualify for free delivery.’

One excuse retailers give for not adapting their online offering for older shoppers is that this demographic does not use the internet.  But last year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, eight out of ten 65 to 74-year-olds used the internet, up from 52 per cent in 2011.

CLAHRC East of England Community e-newsletter - Public Health focus

Detecting, preventing and addressing malnutrition in the community
In the UK over 1 million people aged 65+ are malnourished or at risk of becoming malnourished. Malnutrition is linked with higher rates of hospitalisation, problems with recovery and longer-term co-morbidities. During her CLAHRC EoE Fellowship, Michelle Dewar; a dietitian with Hertfordshire Independent Living Service, analysed data on Meals on Wheels (MoW) clients. The analysis shows that 44% of MoW clients are at medium or high risk of malnutrition. Three quarters of MoW clients are also frail and live alone. Only a minority of MoW clients live in socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods such as Stevenage, which raises questions about access to preventative services.

Michelle’s analysis, supervised by Dr Angela Dickinson and Nigel Smeeton in CRIPACC at the University of Hertfordshire helps fill gaps in knowledge about malnutrition and informs an ongoing programme of prevention and implementation research in the East of England.


Patients Association launches nutrition checklist

The Patients Association has launched a new checklist to help patients and staff working in health and social care identify the potential risk of undernutrition in adults.

The Patients Association Nutrition Checklist aims to address the rising problems of undernutrition in older people, and could potentially improve the day-to-day lives and experiences of thousands of over-65s across the country. 

                         It is estimated that over 1.1 million people over 65 living in their own homes                                       in the UK are currently undernourished, underweight or are not receiving                                           appropriate nutrition to support and maintain their health and wellbeing. This                                     poses a significant health risk for patients, with consequences from malnutrition                                 including impaired recovery from illness and surgery, reduced muscle strength, more                           frequent falls and poorer clinical outcomes.

Developed by the Patients Association in collaboration with several health, social care and voluntary sector providers, the checklist is a simple tool that helps healthcare staff and patients identify the potential risk of undernutrition, and offers signposting to information and sources of help to those likely to be at risk.

Making lunchtimes special at Sandfield Close Primary School

Making lunchtimes special at Sandfield Close Primary School

At Food for Life we love to see the innovative approaches many schools take to food education, one of the schools that have been doing exciting things recently is Sandfield Close Primary School in Leicester. This school considers lunchtimes to be a time for learning and use it as an opportunity to teach socialisation skills, organisational skills and practical skills. Year 6 are event given extra responsibilities and take it in turns to be lunchtime helpers to the cook and kitchen staff.  The school goes the extra mile to create a great dining experience, as care staff decorate the school hall, dining room and sports hall throughout the year.


On top of all this great work, Sandfield Close Primary School has also been getting involved in the Food for Life Better Care programme, forging intergenerational links with the local community thanks to Big Lottery funding. The school has invited local Grandma’s in to the school to join pupils at lunchtime. They have been eating with reception children and helping with their knife and fork skills. It has been fantastic to see the positive impact this has had on the children, helping to improve their motor skills, food choices and socialisation. For the youngest pupils the new dining experience can sometimes feel overwhelming, however the presence of the Grandma’s has helped make them feel more comfortable in the dining hall.

Asda is starting a shopping morning for people with dementia in Manchester

Asda launched a new "inclusive hour" to help shoppers with autism and dementia.

The supermarket is launching the initiative as part of its support for Purple Tuesday, the UK's first accessible shopping day, on Tuesday November 13.

Every Tuesday morning between 10am and 11am, eight stores across Manchester will trial an hour where local people with autism and dementia can have a more relaxing shopping experience.

The store have worked with the Alzheimer’s Society to create and deliver bespoke Dementia Friends Awareness Sessions to colleagues helping them to better understand the condition and therefore help create a more pleasant visit for customers at its stores.

Eat Well, Age Well

Eat Well Age Well is a new national project tackling malnutrition in older people living at home in Scotland. Eat Well Age Well is brought to you by award winning Scottish Charity Food Train and is funded by Big Lottery.

It is unacceptable that one in ten older people in the UK are malnourished; across Scotland this equates to 103,000 older people.

Eat Well Age Well will work in collaboration with a wide range of groups including the voluntary sector, local and national government, health professionals and communities, to develop initiatives that will make a difference to older people.

If you would like information, support or advice, or want to be part of the effort to address malnutrition and dehydration in older adults, then please get in touch.

For further details

Sainsburys supermarket trial 'Talking Tables

Sainsburys supermarket are trialling 'Talking Heads' in some of their cafe, a place where you can have a cuppa and natter on those days whenyou just need someone to talk to.  The stores taking part intiall are, Redditch, Canley, Dorridge, Northfield and Longbridge.

They have produced a short video

Malnutrition Task Force - Preventing malnutrition in later life

The Malnutrition Task Force is an independent group of experts across health, social care and local government united to address avoidable and preventable malnutrition in older people.

Established in 2012, we aim to share our expertise and work with partners in hospitals, care homes, local authorities and private and voluntary organisations.

Our focus is Malnutrition in later life: Malnutrition, here characterised by low body weight and weight loss, is a major cause and consequence of poor health and older people are particularly vulnerable.

Over 3 million people across the UK are either malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.  Over 1 million are over the age of 65 and the vast majority of people are living in the community.

The cost of malnutrition is estimated to be in the region of billions of pounds a year.

To see more statistics on malnutrition, please see our Facts page

@Slow Shopping announce they are happy to be working in partnership with @TWAMmuseums to introduce sessions for our new innovation, Slow Museums! We are committed to opening up public spaces to those with visible, invisible and intellectual disabilities. #SlowShopping #Inclusivity #Accessibility

Tackling malnutrition in St Albans with free BMI check for awareness week - St Albans over 65, offered free malnutrition check 

Anyone could come to Catherine Street’s Jubilee Centre yesterday to take a weight, height and age BMI check - the most efficient way to indicate malnutrition.  The county’s meals-on-wheels provider Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), Public Health Hertfordshire and student volunteers from the University of Hertfordshire (UoH) teamed up to offer the service as part of the first national Malnutrition Awareness Week from October 1 to 7.


Organisations across the country are trying to bust myths about malnutrition during the week, including that losing weight is a normal consequence of aging.

September 16, 2018

Food Security Game - Official England launch 3 October 2018, St Albans Jubilee Centre, during Malnutrion Awareness week, 1 - 5 October #MAW2018

The Food in Later Life game, created by Focus Games and CRIPACC, has it's official England launch event, on 3rd October at Jubilee Centre, St Albans during Malnutrion Awareness week #MAW2018 

For further information, contact Dr Angela Dickinson and Professor Wendy Wills

Twitter @foodinlaterlife @amdickinson1

August 21, 2018


Eating well is essential to good health and wellbeing. However, some people find it difficult to access and consume safe, nutritious and tasty (or socially acceptable) food. These difficulties are known as food insecurity. 


For older people, this is commonly linked with social or health problems - mobility issues, lack of transport or difficulty carrying shopping bags are just a few of the issues faced when shopping for food. In addition, health problems, poor cooking skills or a lack of motivation to cook or eat can pose challenges at home.

It is vital that individuals and organisations working with older people should understand the challenges that they face. Malnutrition affects 1 in 10 older people and can cause serious health issues like weakening the immune system, inability to recover from illness, and even death. This makes it crucial that older people are supported to cook, eat and shop. 

The Food Security Game helps address this issue, delivering practical knowledge and confidence to those supporting, living with or providing a service to older people, with the ultimate aim of improving health and wellbeing for the older generation.

Twitter @FoodInLaterLife

November 22, 2016

Food industry and government need to do more to protect older people’s food security

The University of Hertfordshire study highlights risk of social isolation from well-intentioned efforts to get over 60s to shop online and how supermarkets can better meet older people’s needs.  


The Government, local authorities, the voluntary sector and the food industry should do more to ensure older people have access to a healthy, affordable and safe diet.

The research by the University’s Food and Public Health Research Unit, funded by the Food Standards Agency and the Economic and Social Research Council, was showcased at the annual Food Matters Live exhibition at ExCel in London on November 22-24.

Click below to find further details on our key research findings.

October 12, 2016

New research shows food industry & health agencies can do more to meet older people’s food security needs​

New research shows food industry & health agencies can do more to meet older people’s food security needs​

The University of Hertfordshire share findings from the study 'Food Provision in Later Life' which explores older people's views and experiences of acquiring food in the UK.  

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