Nutrition to Keep Elderly People Healthy

The right nutrition is important throughout our lives, but it’s particularly essential at two life stages: infancy and old age, or the spring and winter of life.

As people age, their healthcare requirements become more complex. One of the most important aspects of senior care is to ensure the provision of proper nutrition. Whether you’re a senior caring for yourself and seeking nutritional advice or you’re somebody caring for a senior, read on for some vital information about nutrition in old age.

Facts about Nutrition and the Elderly

The Basics

Elderly people have unique requirements when it comes to nutrition, and considerations include:

  • Lower metabolism, due to aging and reduced physical activity, means the required nutrients must be derived from a lower number of calories.
  • Many seniors have health conditions which require specific nutritional management, or the effects of their medication for such conditions may alter their nutritional needs.
  • Some seniors wear dentures, which limits the foods they are able to chew.
  • The capacity to produce stomach acid is reduced in some older people, and this affects the absorption of certain nutrients.
  • Our mineral requirements change with age, and while we need less of certain minerals, we will need more of others.
  • Economy is a factor in the dietary choice of many elderly people, as they have limited funds and must adjust their grocery shopping accordingly.

Take time to study the USDA-approved nutritional guidelines and ensure seniors are taking some sort of senior-specific supplement to provide them with essential vitamins and minerals.

At this point in life, any kind of dieting or tinkering with overall nutrition is bad news; the idea is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Cholesterol, sodium and sugars are also concerns, due to heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and the risk of stroke.

For this age-group, food should be fresh, whole and healthy, carefully balanced and in moderation.

Potential Problems

It’s important to ensure that a senior is actually receiving the nutrition he or she needs. When a person reaches this age, there are several potential obstacles to adequate nutritional intake:

  • a diminished appetite,
  • less energy to move around or possibly even to eat,
  • reduced sense of smell or taste, causing food to taste bad,
  • sensitive teeth when chewing,
  • a degenerating digestive tract,
  • not drinking enough fluids, etc.

Proper Planning

Nutritional planning is essential at this stage in life. If you are caring for an elderly person, you should ensure that a weekly menu has been planned, ingredients have been bought, and mealtimes have been scheduled.

Limit fats to less than 30% of the diet, and keep a check on salt and sugars. Ensure sufficient dietary fiber, calcium and fluids.

Remember that what is proper nutrition to you may be difficult for a senior to enjoy. Try to avoid foods that are hard to chew, or that won’t be broken down easily in the stomach.

It may be a chore to make sure a senior eats his or her meal, but keeping healthy in these critical years is even more important.

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