Research Institute for Aging
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The importance of mug and cup choices on hydration

Sep 12, 2022 | Food & Nutrition

Starting the day with a mug of coffee is second nature to many. You may have a favourite mug because it’s sentimental, or you like how it looks or feels. If it was replaced with a mug of a different texture, size, weight, handle and design, it would probably feel off.

Cups and mugs hold more importance than routine – they may influence how well hydrated older adults are. A study led by Heather Keller, Schlegel Research Chair in Nutrition and Aging, and Minn Yoon, associate professor at the University of Alberta explored this topic.

“Older adults living in retirement and long-term care homes are often at risk of dehydration, largely because they don’t drink enough,” explained Keller. “In order to encourage fluid intake, it is important to ensure that the cups and mugs used are large enough to hold sufficient fluid, while also being easy to use and drink from.”

The study examined different types of drinking glasses and mugs older adults in residential care prefer, including factors like the size of the cup, the material, and the weight. 

 “There are many drinking vessels available targeting seniors’ care; however, none have been tested adequately to determine the preference of residents,” said Keller.

The 37 participants in Alberta and Ontario (residents living in retirement and long-term care homes) were asked to observe, handle and drink from different glasses and mugs, including vessels regularly used in the home as well as new vessels brought in for the trial. They provided feedback on the ease of handling and drinking from each vessel, as well as the feel and appearance. 

The research team found that residents are concerned about the look and feel of drinking glasses and mugs, as well as how they will work in the home. For example, are the vessels stackable, can they be adequately sanitized, and are they breakable? 

Further, retirement and long-term care home residents differed in the way they viewed the mugs and what they thought were important features. For example, retirement home residents were more concerned with aesthetics like colour and shape, while long-term care residents were more concerned with how easily vessels could spill and break. 

One drinking glass and one mug that were highly rated in this study will be used in a larger intervention called PROMOTE, which is scheduled to be piloted in late 2022. The research team hopes that the strategies trialled in PROMOTE will be used to help residents drink more and avoid dehydration in retirement and long-term care homes across Canada. 

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