Malnutrition occurs when a person's body does not receive the nutrients it needs to function properly. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition due to a unique set of medical, physical and social reasons, such as heavy caregiving responsibilities, bereavement, recent illness, memory loss, etc.
According to research, over 10% of the UK's older population is affected by malnutrition, with only 7% occurring in care homes and GP surgeries and 93% in the community, while over two million people aged over 75 years live alone and could be at increased risk of malnutrition, the population is referred to by Hertfordshire Independent Living Services slowly "literally fading away in their own homes". As the UK population continues to age, the total cost to the UK's health and social care services of malnutrition in older people is estimated to rise to £15.7 billion by 2030, as they are at higher risk of infection, falls, mental health problems and require three times more social care resources to treat compared to those with nutrition.
Despite the close relationship between malnutrition and other medical conditions, malnutrition is rarely documented by hospitals as a major cause of hospital admissions, and programs to support malnourished older adults often take a back seat to other priorities due to funding withdrawals and public misconceptions, such as the belief that frailty is an inevitable part of aging. Efforts to help identify malnutrition have also faced resistance and in most cases are not detected until the patient is hospitalized or reported to be seriously ill.