Living alone but eating together: exploring lunch clubs as a dining out experience



Thomas N & Emond R (2017) Living alone but eating together: exploring lunch clubs as a dining out experience. Appetite, 119, pp. 34-40.

Dining out is most often associated with pleasure and gratification, principally since it presents opportunities for sociability. However, access to dining out experiences is influenced by multiple factors, including age. Little is known about the dining out habits of older people. In particular, the food practices of those living alone in the community is under-researched compared to those in hospital or residential care. This study explores the perceptions and preferences of ten older people towards domestic and communal meals in South East Scotland. Qualitative data were generated from 5-day food diaries and in-depth interviews with individuals who lived alone and attended a community-based senior citizen's lunch club. Data were coded and thematically analysed using a symbolic interactionist perspective. A number of key themes were identified, including the meaning of mealtimes. It was found that most participants ate the majority of their meals at home alone. Despite this, dining alone was not necessarily experienced as ‘lonely’. Participants reported that dining out at the lunch club was a pleasurable experience given the social interaction and the separation of consumption from food work. Moreover, due to restricted mobility and limited access to transport, the lunch club was viewed by participants as one of the few places that they could go to dine out.

Appetite: Volume 119

Publication date01/12/2017
Publication date online06/03/2017
Date accepted by journal03/03/2017

People (1)


Professor Ruth Emond

Professor Ruth Emond

Professor, Social Work