Oily and salty deep-fried food will soon be a thing of the past for some 2,000 frail elderly who depend on having food delivered to their doorstep daily.
Instead, they will get bite-sized food that are not processed and mainly steamed. The food will be also be cooked with less salt and oil and made less spicy to suit the palate of the elderly.
Most of these frail and homebound elderly, currently on the Meals-On-Wheels programme provided by various Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), are too weak to cook at home or to head out to eat. But some of them have found the food, which are sent to their homes, lacking in variety and nutritional value.
The Agency for Integrated Care is thus teaming up with Soup Restaurant, known for its home-style dishes, to revamp the dishes served to the elderly at home to give them tastier, healthier meals. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) will also provide nutritional advice and will provide tips such as using healthier ingredients like brown rice. For the first time, HPB has developed a set of nutritional guidelines for the elderly that will be rolled out to VWOs and commercial caterers to come up with healthier recipes.
The enhanced Meals-On-Wheels programme is part of a larger aim by AIC to improve on the meals provided in the healthcare sector, especially for those under intermediate and long-term care arrangements. Last year, meals in nursing homes were tweaked to include healthier options.
"This programme is an extension of the nutritional movement that was launched last year with the aim of providing the elderly with good quality food so that they will not suffer from malnourishment," said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower as she launched the revamped programme at Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (West) on Wednesday. The programme is the largest meal delivery service for the elderly in Singapore.
"The improved meals will allow our elderly to enjoy tastier and more nutritious meals so that they will not be at risk of malnourishment. This will enable our elderly to be healthier and have a better quality of life as they age at home and in the community," she added.
Seven VWOs which provide meal services will come on board on this initiative by 2015. For a start, 650 elderly from Thye Hua Kwan West and Sunshine Welfare Action Mission will benefit from the new menu after Chinese New Year. The meals are heavily subsidised by the Health Ministry costs less than $2.50 per meal.
With an ageing population, VWOs report an increasing number of elderly who have to rely on meal services. They expect demand for such services to grow as fast-paced lifestyles catch on and more elderly live alone.
Some organisations have already taken their own initiative to step up the quality of food that they provide. Touch Home Care, for example, has reduced the amount of salt used in its dishes.
The tweaks to the food will be good news to elderly folk like Madam Foong Kim Geok. The 83-year-old used to do her grocery shopping daily as she lives alone and cooks only for herself. But when her knees and shoulders became weaker in recent months, she opted to have meals sent to her home.
"The chicken curry used to be too spicy and the doctor has warned me against food that are too salty," said Madam Foong.
A special Chinese New Year menu of pumpkin rice, yam paste and seafood was delivered to her by Dr Khor and staff from Thye Hua Kwan on Wednesday.