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Physical and emotional nourishment: Food as the embodied component of loving care of elderly family relatives

Rachel Trees (Business School, University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull, UK)
Dianne Marion Dean (Business School, University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 14 September 2018

Issue publication date: 27 November 2018




This purpose of this study is to examine the fluidity of family life which continues to attract attention. This is increasingly significant for the intergenerational relationship between adult children and their elderly parents. Using practice theory, the aims are to understand the role of food in elderly families and explore how family practices are maintained when elderly transition into care.


A phenomenological research approach was used as the authors sought to build an understanding of the social interactions between family and their lifeworld.


This study extends theory on the relationship between the elderly parent and their family and explores through practice theory how families performed their love, how altered routines and long standing rituals provided structure to the elderly relatives and how care practices were negotiated as the elderly relatives transitioned from independence to dependence and towards care. A theoretical framework is introduced that provides guidance for the transition stages and the areas for negotiation.

Research limitations/implications

This research has implications for food manufacturers and marketers, as the demand for healthy food for the elderly is made more widely available, healthy and easy to prepare. The limitations of the research are due to the sample located in East Yorkshire only.

Practical implications

This research has implications for brand managers of food manufacturers and supermarkets that need to create product lines that target this segment by producing healthy, convenience food.

Social implications

It is also important for health and social care policy as the authors seek to understand the role of food, family and community and how policy can be devised to provide stability in this transitional and uncertain lifestage.


This research extends the body of literature on food and the family by focussing on the elderly cared for and their family. The authors show how food can be construed as loving care, and using practice theory, a theoretical framework is developed that can explain the transitions and how the family negotiates the stages from independence to dependence.



Trees, R. and Dean, D.M. (2018), "Physical and emotional nourishment: Food as the embodied component of loving care of elderly family relatives", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 52 No. 12, pp. 2405-2422.



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