Background: Many interventions aim to alleviate well-documented problems of malnutrition in residential care homes and improve residents’ health and wellbeing. Despite some positive findings, little is known about how and why mealtime interventions might be effective, and in particular, what effects residents’ experiences of mealtimes have on health outcomes. The aim of this study was to gain an insight into these experiences and explore some of the issues that may impact on residents’ enjoyment of meals, and resulting health and wellbeing. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eleven residents from four care homes in the South West UK. Thematic analysis was used to derive content and meaning from transcribed interviews. Interviews were supplemented by researcher observations of mealtimes.Results: The dining experience was a focal point for participants’ broader experiences of residing in a care home. Three themes pertaining to residents’ experiences were identified: (1) Emotional and psychological connections with other residents; (2) managing competing interests with limited resources; and (3) familiarity and routine.Conclusion: Mealtimes are a mainstay of life in a care home through which residents’ experiences are characterised, exemplified and magnified. Understanding how residents interact with one another, accommodating their preferences and encouraging autonomy may enhance their mealtime experiences. It may also help to ease the transition from independent-living to life in care, which can be particularly stressful for some residents, and improve health and wellbeing over the long-term.
- Mealtimes, Older adults, Residential care, Semi-structured interviews