Dating for elderly people

While making sure the food is stable, safe and consistent.With forecasts of a 20 per cent growth, it's clear that food manufacturers believe that where the oldies lead, the bulk of the country will follow.I can foresee that it won't be long before we are all unwrapping the packaging from midweek cottage pies and looking forward to a Jaffa Sphere-laden Sunday.Potato peelers will, as per the classic Seventies Smash television ads, become museum pieces."Pastry is regarded as much too frightening to make from scratch for many of our customers," Newton-Brown advises. We then moved on to chicken Penang with sticky jasmine rice. Not all old people just want shepherd's pie, you see.At this point my father, a retired doctor, remarked that, in his view, each dish had far too much salt.People such as Vera James, an Independent reader who wrote to me when I described in a column how my octogenarian parents like to do supper, namely, by peeling plastic off a meal and heating it up.

"That's our heartland."How did our token retiree find the fodder, though?

After I wrote this column, a slightly caustic piece about the quality of some ready meals that I had experienced courtesy of my parents, I was contacted by Marks & Spencer, and invited to come and taste some of its offerings, many of which, I now know, are devised specifically with the 65-plus market in mind.

To make sure the target group was involved, I took along my 83-year-old father, John Millard.

I know salt is used to pep up flavour, and also as a preservative, but I would have thought a low-salt range of dishes should be next in line for M&S's attention. Many elderly people, having grown up with rationing, are now familiar with a huge range of stuff, thanks to the explosion of not only television chefs but also restaurants.

Back in the room, we moved on to other critical areas."We also use hero ingredients," the M&S man said. " asks Dr Millard, a man who can still recall the date and place where he ate his first banana (1948, Coulsdon)."Things like salmon. " Newton-Brown produces what must only be described as a "hero pudding", namely a round ball of chocolate mousse enclosing marmalade – a sort of Jaffa Cake made globular. Hence, M&S and all the rest of them have to provide traditional fare for their conservative customers, while tempting others who might be curious to taste a Jaffa Sphere.

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"Hypertension [high blood pressure] is a very real threat in the over-60s, and it is exacerbated by too much salt.

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