Preventing malnutrition in later life

Man with a Pan: getting older men in the kitchen

Mark and Mary

As part of Men’s Health Week, Age UK Richmond upon Thames blog on their ‘Man with a Pan’ scheme, a great way to simultaneously teach men how to cook and reduce isolation.  

No-one likes being lonely and isolated. Yet for older men, this is an all too regular occurrence.

In 2014, an Independent Age report showed that over 1.2 million older men experience a moderate or high degree of social isolation.

It highlighted that men are more likely to be dependent on their partners than women, and that there are fewer opportunities for men to socialise together.  This can cause a range of problems.

It was these findings that inspired Age UK Richmond upon Thames set up a range of activities aimed at men, including ‘Man with a Pan’ cookery courses and clubs.

Men traditionally not the cooks

Cooking can be really fun and rewarding – throwing together all manner of different ingredients and seeing what tasty concoction you can come up with. But not everyone is a whizz in the kitchen.

Many older men would traditionally not have been the cook in their household and would have found themselves with the good fortune of having meals served to them for most of their adult life.  Finding themselves on their own, they may struggle. Social isolation can lead to poor nutritional intake or even malnutrition, which in turn can cause poor physical and mental health.

What is Man with a Pan?

Man with a Pan was originally set up as 6 week courses where men prepare, cook and eat together as a group under the direction of a tutor.  Nutrition has been absolutely key to the initiative, where they learn the importance of a good diet and our tutors also give advice about budgeting.  The recipes are for bigger portions so that there is enough to freeze for a later date.

In addition to this, we have been running twice-weekly Man with a Pan Clubs which have a similar format to the courses.  We also team up with St Mary’s University and they deliver some Man with a Pan courses and a monthly club for us, whereby participants receive a 40-minute interactive nutrition talk, covering topics including micro and macro nutrients, salt, food labels, and food hygiene amongst others.

“A great group of silly old fools!”

In the last year alone we’ve worked with around 300 men and we’ve made a huge difference to their lives.  One of our regular participants said, “It’s difficult to say which bit is the best part of the club. Mary (pictured above with participant Mark), who takes the club, is absolutely brilliant.  How she puts up with us is amazing.  We produce some very lovely food and the whole time is great fun.  I’m reluctant to recommend it to anyone else because I feel we are a great group of silly old fools!”

The social aspect of the courses is as important as the cooking.  We want men to form friendships and hopefully take part in some of our other men’s activities together, such as walking football or pub lunches.

We are grateful for the funding from charitable trusts, such as the City Bridge Trust and Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity, and we are also partly commissioned by the local authority.

For more information on Man with a Pan, contact Susan Hollins in Age UK Richmond upon Thames’s Community Services team on communityservices@ageukrichmond.org.uk.

Listen to ‘Man with a Pan’s’ recent media coverage:

BBC World Service interview with some of the course’s participants

United Christian Broadcasters interview on the course’s benefits  

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