Publication Details

Bell, A., Walton, K., Westblade, N., Morson, K., Chevis, J., Harries, L. & Yoxall, A. (2014). If at first you don't succeed: Older consumers and hospital food & beverage packaging - a matter of try, try and try again!. In M. A. Sek, V. Rouillard & S. W. Bigger (Eds.), Responsible Packaging for a Global Market - Proceedings of the 19th IAPRI World Conference on Packaging (pp. 512-523). Melbourne, Australia: Victoria University.


‘Openability’ of food and beverage packaging has been shown to be problematic for older consumers. Pressure on resources has seen the use of packaged food and beverages increase in Hospitals within the NSW region of Australia. Studies at the University of Wollongong have shown that not only is Hospital food & beverage packaging problematic, difficulty opening it was identified as a barrier to nutritional intake.

Given the serious nature of the problem, a series of studies have been undertaken by the University of Wollongong and Sheffield Hallam University, to evaluate the issues surrounding the ‘openability’ of this packaging in an attempt to understand in detail the issues leading to difficulty in use.

Amongst the poor performing packs were seen to be water bottles, drink cartons and cheese portions. Whilst issues surrounding strength were seen to be linked to accessed to bottled water, all other pack types were significantly affected by dexterity and in particular the fine control needed to pinch and peel tabs or remove drinking straws.

Sound ergonomics indicates that products should be designed for the user population, yet the experience of our consumers indicates that this is not necessarily the case. Work is ongoing to understand in more detail the effects of ageing such a reduced dexterity on packaging ‘openability’ as well as the effects of age and posture. The eventual aim of this work is to collaborate with packaging designers, manufacturers and brand owners to develop and produce effective and reliable packaging for both the healthcare and retail environments.