Tackling Obesity in Aged-Care Homes: The Effects of Environmental Cues

Joyce Hei Tong Lau,* (Corresponding Author), Huda Khan, Richard Lee, Larry Lockshin, Anne Sharp, Jonathan Buckley, Ryan Midgley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Obesity among elderly consumers precipitates undesirable health outcomes. This study aims to investigate the effects of environmental cues on food intake of elderly consumers in an aged-care facility.
A longitudinal study conducted over 17-weeks in situ within an aged-care facility with 31 residents investigated how auditory (soothing music), olfactory (floral-scented candle) and visual (infographic on health benefits of the main meal component) cues influenced food intake quantity during a meal, while accounting for portion size effect.
Analysing the cross-sectional results of individual treatments and rounds did not reveal any consistent patterns in the influence of the three environmental cues. Longitudinal analyses, however, showed that the presence of auditory and olfactory cues significantly increased food intake, but the visual cue did not. Moreover, the portion size effect was strong.
Research Implications
Extending research into environmental factors from a commercial to a healthcare setting, this study demonstrates how the presence of auditory and olfactory, but not cognitive cues increased food intake behaviour among elderly consumers. It also shows that a cross-sectional approach to such studies would have yielded inconclusive or even misleading findings. Merely serving more would also lead to higher food intake amount.
Practical Implications
Environmental factors should be a part of healthcare providers’ arsenal to manage obesity. They are practical and relatively inexpensive to implement across different healthcare settings. However, the same environmental factors would have opposite desired-effects with normal or underweight residents, and hence aged-care facilities need to separate the dining experience (or mealtime) of obese and other residents. Quantity served should also be moderated to discourage overeating.
While studies into managing obesity, particularly among older adults, have mainly focused on techniques such as pharmacotherapy treatments with drugs, dietary management, or even lifestyle change, less attention has been given to the influence of environmental cues. Our study, executed in situ within an aged-care facility, provided evidence of the importance of considering the impact of environmental factors on food intake to help reduce obesity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3054-3077
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number11
Early online date31 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022


  • Portion size
  • music
  • floral-scent
  • energy intake
  • obesity
  • elderly
  • consumers


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