Take Grandma to McDonalds –  it’s good for her mental health, is the message from research from the University of Michigan.

Eating at fast food joints is good for older people, the study says.  Not because of the hamburgers, because ‘we know that diets high in saturated fat cholesterol are associated with increased risk of cognitive decline,’ said lead author, Dr Jessica Finlay, research fellow at the university’s Institute for Social Research.

But because McDonalds or Burger King and the like are community spaces in which older people can interact, and social interaction beats loneliness and helps cognitive health.  It’s known from many studies that feelings of loneliness more than double the risk of dementia, and are as bad for  physical and mental health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The Michigan study found that people living in areas with retail food places had higher cognitive scores than those in neighbourhoods with only a few.  Older adults found them familiar and comfortable, as well as places to socialise.  They also don’t cost too much.  A participant in the study, 75 year old Martha, who lives alone said the local eateries were ‘easy, low-pressure ways to interact with friends and make new social connections.’

It may not be possible during these Covid times, but to making grandma happy (and possibly grandad as well!) take her to a fast food joint.  You can always buy a salad and something a little healthier than a cheese burger!

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.