Shaping nursing home mealtimes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A number of studies stress the importance of positive mealtime experiences for nursing home residents. However, the components that comprise an ideal nursing home meal remain unclear, reflecting the ambiguity of whether nursing homes should be framed as institutions, domestic settings or a type of hotel. In this study, nursing home meals were viewed as situations that the involved parties could continuously modify and ‘work on’. The aim was to analyse how the staff and residents shaped mealtimes by initiating frames and acting according to established social scripts. The study was based on semi-structured interviews with staff and residents and on ethnographic data, consisting of 100 hours of observations at two nursing home settings in Sweden. The analysis revealed how staff and residents interactively shaped meals using institutional, private or restaurant frames. There were three important findings: (a) an institutional meal frame was dominant; (b) there were substantial difficulties in introducing private frames and established private scripts for meals, since such meal versions are personal and not easy to transport into collective settings; (c) successful creation of private or home-like meal situations illustrates an often overlooked skill in care work. Making meals as ‘care-free’ as possible can be viewed as a way to operationalise the goal of providing a non-institutional environment in nursing homes.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


  • nursing homes, meals, social scripts
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalAgeing & Society
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

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Related projects

Tove Harnett, Håkan Jönson, Annika Taghizadeh Larsson & Stina Johansson


Project: Research

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