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The meal as a performance: food and meal practices beyond health and nutrition

  • MARIA NYBERG (a1), VIKTORIA OLSSON (a1), GERD ÖRTMAN (a2), ZADA PAJALIC (a2) (a3) (a4), HÅKAN S. ANDERSSON (a2), ANNA BLÜCHER (a2), ANN-LOUISE LINDBORG (a5), KARIN WENDIN (a1) (a6) (a7) and ALBERT WESTERGREN (a4)...
Abstract

The proportion of elderly people in the population is increasing, presenting a number of new challenges in society. The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate how elderly persons with motoric eating difficulties perceive and perform their food and meal practices in everyday life. By using Goffman's concept of performance as a theoretical framework together with Bourdieu's thinking on habitus, a deeper understanding of food and meal practices is obtained. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 elderly people (aged between 67 and 87 years) and meal observations were carried out with 11 of these people. Participants were found to manage food and meal practices by continuously adjusting and adapting to the new conditions arising as a result of eating difficulties. This was displayed by conscious planning of what to eat and when, avoiding certain foods and beverages, using simple eating aids, but also withdrawing socially during the meals. All these adjustments were important in order to be able to demonstrate proper food and meal behaviour, to maintain the façade and to act according to the perceived norms. As well as being a pleasurable event, food and meals were also perceived in terms of being important for maintaining health and as ‘fuel’ where the main purpose is to sustain life. This was strongly connected to the social context and the ability to enjoy food and meals with family members and friends, which appeared to be particularly crucial due to the impending risk of failing the meal performance.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Maria Nyberg, Food and Meal Science, School of Learning and Environment, Kristianstad University, SE-291 88 Kristianstad, Sweden E-mail: maria.nyberg@hkr.se
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Ageing & Society
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