Preventing malnutrition in later life

New survey from MTF and Age UK reveals over half of us do not know the dying wishes of our nearest and dearest – new book and film available to help

A new survey from the Malnutrition Task Force (MTF) and Age UK highlights that having conversations around dying and death is still very much a taboo subject and avoided by many people.  In response, the organisations have produced a new book and film to help people explore and approach this subject.

The research reveals that over a third (36%) of people aren’t comfortable bringing up the subject with a relative or close friend and (40%) admit they do not know their loved ones’ wishes around dying, such as what their preferred type of burial would be.

This confirms what Age UK has found in other recent research, such as:

  • Most people could talk generally about death and dying within their own peer group but not their own family
  • Younger people did not feel comfortable to speak to their older friends and relatives and closed down conversations very quickly
  • Older people found it difficult to talk to professionals and family and easier to peers about wanting to stop treatment and let nature take its course
  • Older people found that their grown up children do not want grandparents to discuss   dying and  death with their grandchildren – even when they have a positive relationship and may take on a fair amount of childcare responsibilities
  • All age groups felt that they had no idea of what may physically  happen when people approach the end of life

 Lesley Carter, Programme Head of the MTF and Head of Health Influencing at Age UK, said:


 “We know that having the confidence to start a conversation about dying and death is very hard, we struggle to find the right time, the right words and we are terrified of upsetting the other person and ourselves.


 “ We have written this bright well-illustrated book and film that can be used to explore this issue with children, adults and professionals.    We’ve explained why it is important to talk about dying and death, given ideas of how you could start a conversation, what you may want to say. Obviously, we are all different, you will find your own words.  We hope that these resources will give you the confidence to give it a go 

The poll of over 2,000 people found there are a number of barriers preventing people speaking openly about death, such as:

  • Half (50%) said they would be worried about upsetting the other person
  • Nearly a third (30%) said they would be worried it would offend the other person
  • A quarter (25%) would simply not know how to bring up the subject
  • Over a fifth (22%) said it would make them feel too upset
  • A fifth (20%) don’t think they would be able to find the right time and place to have the conversation
  • Nearly a fifth (19%) said it isn’t something they would want to think about at all

The Age UK and MTF booklet entitled ‘Let’s talk about death and dying’ is accompanied by a film to help people to have conversations about it with their loved ones. They both cover important topics such as how to start the conversation with someone you love and the physical changes that can take place when a person dies.

The book and film can be downloaded and viewed here.

The work was funded by the Department of Health as part of their Strategic Partners Programme.

Media contacts

Media only: If you would like more information on this article, please contact Liz Fairweather on 020 3033 1718 or email


  • The polling of over 2,000 adults in the UK was carried out during 7-8 September by YouGov
  • The Age UK research was conducted via focus groups with Britain Thinks


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