Nutritional status, functional ability and food habits of institutionalised and non-institutionalised elderly people in Morogoro region, Tanzania

  • CNM Nyaruhucha Senior Lecturer, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P. O. Box 3006, Morogoro, Tanzania
  • JM Msuya Senior Lecturer, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P. O. Box 3006, Morogoro, Tanzania
  • E Matrida Department of Food Science and Technology, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P. O. Box 3006, Morogoro, Tanzania


Objective: To determine nutritional status, food habits and functional abilities of the institutionalised and non-institutionalised elderly.

Design: A cross-sectional population survey.

Setting: Free living and institutionalised elderly of Morogoro municipality, Tanzania.

Subjects: A total of 100 elderly people, fifty institutionalised and fifty non-institutionalised were included. Gender distribution was of equal numbers.

Measurements: Anthropometric measurements of weights and heights were taken to enable calculation of Body Mass Index (BMI) of each subject. Questionnaires were used to collect information on types of foods, amount and frequency of consumption and functional abilities of the elderly. Amount of food consumed was expressed in grams per person per day.

Results: There were significant differences (p=0.001) in nutritional status between the institutionalised and the non- institutionalised males, but this relationship did not exist among the females. Similarly, 30% and 26% of the institutionalised males and females, respectively, and none of the non- institutionalised males was observed to be overweight. On the other hand, 39% and 23% of the non-institutionalised males and females, respectively, were underweight or malnourished. Consumption of sardines was higher (p=0.05) among the institutionalised subjects, but the situation was opposite for the case of fruits. Alcohol consumption was higher (p<0.05) among non- institutionalised subjects in both sexes. No difference was noted in consumption of beans, vegetables, cereals and meat. The most common functional disability was urinary incontinence (36%) while feeding (5%) was the least common. The most affected by urinary incontinence were institutionalised male subjects.

Conclusion: There was a great variation between elderly people who are cared for in institutional centres and those who are cared for by their relatives in terms of nutritional status, reflected by their BMI levels. The institutionalised ones appear to be better off than their counterparts. However, this condition is not equally reflected in their eating habits. Generally, most of the elderly have poor or no source of income, which make them to have poor living conditions. They are also faced with problems of functional disabilities of which urinary incontinence was more common among males.

East African Medical Journal Vol. 81 No. 5 May 2004: 248-253

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0012-835X