Background. The aim of the study was to describe home-living elderly people's views on the importance of food and meals. Methods. Semistructured interviews with twelve elderly people. The interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Results. Respondents described how their past influenced their present experiences and views on food and meals. Increased reliance on and need of support with food and meals frequently arose in connection with major changes in their life situations. Sudden events meant a breaking point with a transition from independence to dependence and a need for assistance from relatives and/or the community. With the perspective from the past and in the context of dependency, respondents described meals during the day, quality of food, buying, transporting, cooking, and eating food. Conclusions. Meeting the need for optimal nutritional status for older people living at home requires knowledge of individual preferences and habits, from both their earlier and current lives. It is important to pay attention to risk factors that could compromise an individual's ability to independently manage their diet, such as major life events and hospitalisation. Individual needs for self-determination and involvement should be considered in planning and development efforts for elderly people related to food and meals.
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