Publications

The silver sensory experience - A review of senior consumers' food perception, liking and intake

Doets, E.L.; Kremer, S.

Summary

It is commonly assumed that sensory impairments occurring with age negatively affect older people's intake of foods in terms of both quality and quantity. This review discusses evidence published on the effects of age on sensory perception and the consequences for independently living seniors' perception, liking and intake of food products. Because of anatomical changes in all the senses involved in human food perception, on average seniors perceive a lower flavour intensity than younger adults, are less sensitive to changes in the flavour profile of foods, and show a decreased ability to discriminate between different intensity levels of flavour and/or taste attributes. However, despite these differences in their sensory perception of foods, young adults and seniors seem to differ less in their initial hedonic appraisal of food products. Nonetheless, more research is needed to determine whether multisensory enrichment of foods across different modalities may lead to increased food liking in seniors both with and without olfactory impairment. Although limited, the current evidence suggests that sensory performance may be positively associated with BMI or body weight in specific senior populations. In addition, seniors fail to show a decreased appreciation of an eaten food, thereby increasing the risk of a monotonous diet. Taken together, these findings highlight the need for appropriate interventions and/or foods to improve and maintain adequate quantity and quality of food intake among independently living seniors, and especially those with low sensory performance. Such interventions should be holistic rather than focused on one modality and may also incorporate hedonic modulators such as past experiences, affective factors and external cues, e.g. brand names, labels or food packaging. In interventions and product development, segmentation of the senior consumer market is strongly advised to identify more homogeneous subgroups in order to deal with the large heterogeneity between independently living seniors. It is concluded that one size of the silver food experience will most likely not fit all senior consumers!