Maggie’s on a mission: “I want to transform the food experience of the elderly”
She’s the Godmother of Australian cookery and a universally worshipped presence across Australia’s food scene. But now food icon Maggie Beer has her eyes and her heart set on revolutionising the way older Australians eat. Here Maggie speaks with Grey Matters about her mission to make food a delicious experience for older Australians.
Grey Matters: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing older Australians today?
Maggie Beer: The biggest challenges I see are how to be sure of eating the right food for firstly their nutritional needs that will also give them pleasure, as that should be part of everyone’s life. Whether it’s those living alone, when often loneliness is what we need solutions for, and the access to beautiful food for their wellbeing. Without the right protein and nutrients there can so easily be a lack of physicality that limits lives.
What motivated you to implement changes in the aged care sector by means of the Maggie Beer Foundation?
At one of the many engagements I spoke at after being awarded Senior Australian of the Year in 2010, when I spoke to 1000 CEOs of aged care. That single event couldn’t have had more of an impact on my decision to establish the Maggie Beer Foundation, which I did in 2014.
There are so many passionate people involved in this industry, all of them trying to do what they can with limited resources to bring every part of the puzzle together to impact change in aged care, but it is a very complex tapestry to manage and I would love to see it re-imagined.
It was my hope to pull all the various specialist aspects of science, research, nutrition and management under the one umbrella to support the ever-growing aged care industry in providing food full of flavour and the right nutrition for age and dietary requirements.
The Maggie Beer Foundation was established to be part of the journey to transform the food experience of the elderly – bringing life-altering change to their wellbeing.
Where do you even begin when attempting make change in such regulated, large-scale operations such as food in aged care?
There are many stumbling blocks in relation to cooking in aged care homes but my purpose with the Foundation is not to focus on the negatives, but rather to put some fresh thinking around what is possible in aged care, and how we can improve the emotional wellbeing of elders through food.
This was never going to be an easy road and so there have most certainly been challenges along the way. But the common denominator is that so many involved agree that change needs to happen, so we start from there.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced growing older in your personal life and your career?
I am lucky enough to have huge energy; huge involvement in life and having always had a good food life it’s helped me to see age as simply a state of mind.
What are your thoughts on ageism especially in the media?
I hate to see news reports that immediately turn to labels to describe a woman particularly “Grandmother of..” It makes my blood boil.
We often get comments from seniors saying how they feel invisible or unnoticed after retirement. How do you feel about the way older Australians are judged or treated?
I want to encourage those people to speak up, to find their voice and band with others who are like-minded and giving volume to that voice.
During your career you’ve positively affected so many people inside and outside the industry, and you continue to make life-changing contributions through the Maggie Beer Foundation. What is the driving force behind this that enables you to stay focused and motivated?
I am very lucky to have the energy – to have the hope for a better food life for all and the platform to be able to bring attention to it. I feel so strongly that our elders have had hard lives; have gone through so many difficult times without complaint and it’s our turn to make sure they have pleasure and as much health as is possible to the end of their life.
What do the next few years hold for you?
A lot of work….
Visit maggiebeerfoundation.org.au for more information.