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NANA: Dietary, mood and cognitive assessment for older adults


NANA (Novel Assessment of Nutrition and Ageing) uses touchscreen software to record food and drink consumption alongside measurements of mood and cognition.

Creating NANA has been a collaborative project between academics at the Universities of Sheffield, St Andrews and Reading, and the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering. The team’s expertise covers nutrition, psychology, engineering and human–computer interaction. Initial funding from the ESRC – part of the cross-council New Dynamics of Ageing programme – has enabled the first stages of development and validation of the system.

The old method

Gathering accurate information about anyone’s dietary intake can be difficult, because respondents often mis-report what they are eating. Traditional methods of dietary assessment use written records and face-to-face interviews, but these are time consuming, can cause frustration and are especially demanding as people get older. NANA takes a different approach to dietary assessment and is the first method specifically designed for older adults.

How NANA is different

With NANA, people record what they are eating by selecting items on a touchscreen computer and then taking a photograph of their meal or snack. This collects all the data needed by the researcher, and significantly reduces the burden on the user. Older people’s input into the system’s design has created an easy-to-use tool that requires little training.

Using NANA in the real world

NANA has been chosen as a solution to a challenge raised by the LLGA Cities Pilot the Future project 2013, which identifies emerging technologies for the benefit of citizens around the world. The software will soon be piloted by the city of L’Hospitalet, a Catalan municipality near Barcelona and one of the most densely populated cities in the EU. It will use NANA to monitor the nutritional intake of its senior citizens.

Future plans

This innovative project in L’Hospitalet will demonstrate NANA’s application beyond its use as a research tool. It has the potential to help spot early signs of change in older adults, information that could be shared with relatives or carers to help ensure continued well-being. Finding a commercial partner will support the team to develop this promise.

Further research council funding is being sought to keep improving NANA; measurement methods for research purposes will continue to be refined, and potential real-world applications are still to be fully explored. User feedback indicates that an additional feature recommending what they should be eating would be welcome.

Dr Elizabeth Williams, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition at the University and nutrition expert on the team, feels more work on NANA will reap many benefits: “People have reported that just using the system made them more aware of what they were consuming. NANA really has the potential to maintain older people’s health and well-being, keep them at home and make sure they are adequately nourished.”

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