Q Last year my wife and I separated after 45 years. I don’t mind living on my own but I’m tired of eating takeaways and gaining a lot of weight. I’d like to learn to cook healthy meals. Do you have any ideas of how I can do this?
A Many people, especially men, learn to cook later in life. Reasons include the loss of a partner, having more time to cook after stopping work or being inspired by TV cooking shows.
The good news is a range of organisations host community-based cooking classes. Most focus on teaching basic skills to give seniors confidence to prepare and cook their meals. These classes aren’t just for older people who have never cooked before, they provide a fun activity as well as opportunities for connecting with people in your area, where often friendships continue outside the classes.
The NZ Nutrition Foundation supports Cook for Life classes for seniors in a range of locations and has information on its website on healthy eating for older people.
Your local Age Concern office may have information on cooking classes available in your area. In some regions, Men’s Sheds have the capacity to provide cooking classes and community night classes are available in other regions.
Age UK has the ‘Kitchen Kings’ project which helps older men to prepare and cook wholesome food.
And in Australia, Project Dinnertime provides four-week cooking and food skill classes designed for older people and delivered by qualified dietitians and nutritionists.
If you have access to a computer, YouTube has a tremendous range of videos with simple step-by-step guides on preparing familiar food items, from poached eggs to a roast dinner. And we have some videos of basics, too.
Ask family and friends for help with basic skills. I taught my father to make scones when he was 92 and he’s since turned out many batches of top scones.
Many classes commence around the start of each year, so get onto exploring your local options as soon as you can.
Over the summer, take advantage of fresh salad items and ready-made meals available in your local supermarket. These are healthier than takeaways, until you feel confident to cook your own meals.