Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2014 Contents joy of mealtimes. "The simplest
and most immediate way to give
residents pleasure every day
is to give them a lovely
meal," she says.
Beer outlines a
vision to promote
culture change by
food can make
to the lives of
residents and to
to implement change
locally. "It's all about the
food and the flavour, the freshness
and seasonality and buying well from
local sources. That's what makes the
difference, but it is also about the dining
Reflecting on her approach, Beer
says she will be working with aged care
providers from the ground up rather than
imposing change from above.
"I want to take people with me and
find ways to excite them." she says.
"For me, the significant change that is
necessary is that the leadership within
aged care has to believe how important
food is to what they do. After that,
everything else can change."
And she says tight budgets are
no excuse. "With great thought and
understanding of food, there is no doubt
you can do so much more than what many
people think," she says.
Trevor Cook, food service manager
at Ridgehaven, one of the pilot sites
which operates from a central production
kitchen, says he is excited about the
passion, big ideas and local food knowledge
that Beer will bring to the partnership.
"I'm excited that Maggie has chosen
us and it's great to have her on board.
In the long term, I hope it will set a new
standard for food industry-wide."
At the community-owned Abbeyfield
Aged Care facility in Williamstown, all 23
residents and 29 staff will be involved in
the pilot project.
General manager Barbara Wieland
says a key focus will be on maximising
flavour, aroma and food presentation and
shifting the focus of mealtimes to a more
"Maggie Beer has been involved with
researching the different food groups
that maximise residents' optimal health
which will be exciting to learn more
about," Wieland says, adding that it will
also present an opportunity for the facility
to review its food budget and strengthen
Wieland says she hopes other services
will be able to learn from Abbeyfield's
experiences as the project explores
innovative methods to meet the food
preferences of residents, as well as
residents on a texture-modified diet.
A steering committee at Abbeyfield
made up of the facility's chef, a member
of the clinical team and a resident's
representative will deliver feedback on the
pilot's progress to the rest of the facility.
She says an openness to change will
be critical to project's success. "It's about
education and the willingness of people
working in aged care services to look
forward rather than saying, 'this is the
way we have always done it'."
Beer says the idea for the foundation grew
from an invitation to address the annual
ACSA national conference in Hobart
in 2010 during her period as Senior
Australian of the Year. After travelling
around to facilities in South Australia and
Victoria in preparation for the talk, Beer
was struck by a desire to see some things
desperately change in the sector.
Grappling with how she could make a
difference, she met with the then federal
minister for ageing, South Australian
MP Mark Butler to discuss a possible
partnership with the former government.
However, with the distraction of a
federal election and an ultimate
change in power, her plans
took a different turn and she
decided to go it alone and
set up a not-for-profit
foundation inspired by
the motto, 'a good food
life for all.'
She says she
hopes the foundation
will also be a conduit
for research and
Beer has already
lent her support to
The Lantern Project,
spearheaded by Gold
Coast dietitian, Cherie
Hugo (see opposite).
Addressing training is also on the
agenda, with Beer and fellow South
Australian chef Simon Bryant in talks
with TAFE SA to put together an
accredited training program for cooks
and chefs in aged care. As a highly
complex area, Beer says that specialised
training is necessary to support staff
to meet the needs of residents with
dementia or dysphasia.
Heading up the foundation's national
board of directors are a number of
big thinkers and strategists including
Macquarie University's Vice Chancellor
Bruce Dowton, former Australian Consul-
General in Tokyo Wendy Holdenson, who
developed an interest in food in aged
care while in Japan, and senior partner
in Price Waterhouse Coopers Kevin Reid,
who works with organisations such as
Meals on Wheels SA and Southern Cross
Care SA & NT.
As for the absence of direct aged care
industry representation on the board,
Beer says she wanted the foundation to be
"ears open to all the good and all the bad",
and she will continue to seek sector input
and feedback through various forums.
She says she will also be drawing on
the pioneering work of HammondCare's
executive chef and food ambassador,
A LONG BUT
Beer describes this "complex journey" as
one she is on for the rest of her life, but
also as a collaborative effort.
"I have a lot of really passionate people
around me who are so generous in sharing
"It is a huge task. It could be
overwhelming if we didn't understand that
we need to do this step by step. It's all about
involving others and leading CEOs and staff
to understand what a huge difference good
food makes to the everyday life of residents,
if they don't already know it.
"I have heard and seen some of the
most amazing things, but it has to be
Visit the foundation's website at:
change that is
necessary is that
within aged care
has to believe
food is to what
they do. After
else can change."
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