A myriad of specific elderly nutrition problems tend to increase as we age -- and proper nutrition is often more difficult to get. Nutrition (or lack of it)
in our older loved ones is often hidden...
And it may be difficult to discover exactly what it going on.
When Dad first moved from
Arizona into his assisted living facility back here, he was 93. One of
the first things I noticed was his lack of appetite. It was not just
from the stress of moving, but was a long-term issue. He ate like a
bird, ate very little protein, but lots of salt and sugar. Lots of
snacks.This was not like him. He had always been astute with his nutrition.
So I immediately had to make sure plenty of healthy snack food
(including with protein) was always on hand, plus be sure that he got at
least one good protein meal a day. (See our page on delicious elderly nutrition snacks).
Certainly, taking vitamins and supplements can help. And a balanced diet plan is a must. Nutritious recipes for cooking can help. We know all these things, at least in the back of our minds. But the consequences of not getting enough high nutrition foods is very serious.
Proper elderly nutrition and eating habits are crucial to maintain quality of life: control blood sugar levels to avoid diabetes, maintain good vision, a positive mood, good sleep, better eyesight, energy, bone and muscle strength, digestion, good elimination, etc. These are severely affected with poor diet, causing sometimes serious elderly nutrition problems.
Startling Studies and Statistics
Some of the studies I came upon floored me. Elderly nutrition problems are, and have been, an important concern for health officials -- the Centers for Disease Control estimate that by 2030 the U.S. population will double, to about 71 million older adults. That is about one in every five people.
We are, as they say, on the "brink of a longevity revolution." It is crucial that we focus on a healthy lifestyle, and nutrition tops the list.
In 2000 the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion did a study with a group of elderly, their nutrition, and elderly nutrition problems. The average age in the study was 72.3 years old, with 48% men and 52% women.
They concluded that elderly who did not eat sufficient amounts of quality food (i.e. meat, fish, vegetables) took in, of course, less calories, good carbs, good fats, and protein. Key vitamins and minerals (such as the B's, iron and zinc) that are crucial to brain and immune system function were also lacking. They thus were more greatly susceptible to infection, as well as cognitive disorders and chronic illness.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) studies also say that of Americans over age 65, malnutrition and obesity are common. This can be partly due to having to cheap, nutrition-less food. Because of budget concerns. In fact, the studies indicate that if the elderly receive what is known as "nutritional intervention," many diseases could be prevented.
One of the most startling studies to me was this...
Intervention studies indicate that malnutrition is a major reason for hospitalization for the elderly -- one of the more severe elderly nutrition problems. As we age have the same Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) as when we were young, with Vitamins D, B6, and calcium as exceptions.
Yet the elderly don't need as many calories. I certainly realized this with Dad. So with less calories, often these needed nutrients are not obtained. Women need even fewer calories, so can have even a more difficult time.
It is evident that highly nutritious foods with lower calories are vital, and a wide variety of foods in moderate portions. But many elderly enjoy comfort food and snacking -- often their choices are not healthy.
Dad loved to just nibble. He got to a point when he only vaguely cared about the nutritional value of his food. I had to care for him. So healthy snacks are a very important means of getting those nutrient-dense foods.
Food Stamps can assist the elderly in obtaining healthy groceries, yet according to the U.S. government, very few participate because of lack of information about the program and as importantly, about nutritional need. They do not perceive that there is an elderly nutrition problem. Many elderly also perceive a negative stigma attached to Food Stamps.
There are other elderly nutrition problems, however. They're serious, sometimes subtle elderly dietary problems are from changes in eating patterns. And we need to get to the root of it, as they pose a real health threat.
There are many reasons for poor eating...
Like the inability to grocery shop, poor digestion, chewing difficulties including difficulties with dentures, poor appetite. Loved ones may pick at food, or even forget to eat. Or they might just like what they like, and it's not necessarily all good. And oh how stubborn older folks can sometimes be!
There are also specialty concerns, such as diabetes. And if your loved one has any kind of serious vision loss, there is a special recommended nutrition for eyes that you should know about. It's particularly for vision and macular degeneration nutrition. This eye disease is one of Dad's major issues. Macular degeneration extremely common. So I was particularly interested in anything that can help prevent or help this. An eye doctor can tell you about this particular nutrition for eyes if you are concerned.
No doubt a number of preventative measures can assist in elderly heath besides good nutrition.
Also important are regular exercise (which aids in all body functions including digestion), quitting tobacco products, and getting regular preventative medical check-ups, including for dementia screening (dementia greatly impacts eating and nutrition), and depression. Other issues can occur with elderly nutritition food safety as well, and we discuss more solutions on that page.
An interesting consideration which I personally have used
for years, -- Goat milk products have special properties that can help
provide proper nutrition for the elderly. You can read more about this
topic at a web site called Everything Goat Milk; see
Elderly Nutrition and Goat Milk.
The Centers for Disease Control state that although there is, of course, a higher possibility of poor health as we age, it is not an inevitable consequence!
Follow our link below and learn more about
elderly nutrition and what you can do.
Easy Healthy Recipes -- Our "recipe central," with lots of great recipes and links within our site to take you to more healthy recipes you might like to find out more about.
Healthy Snack Recipes -- Especially important for those with elderly nutrition problems. Learn lots of easy and nutritious recipes.
Delicious Healthy Dessert Recipes -- Something for almost everyone, including those with sugar, carb, and fat restrictions. Learn new recipes and ideas for sweetening the healthy way.
Our Share Your Recipe Forums -- Where our readers have shared their own recipes right on our web site. You can too. Our readers would love to hear from you!!
Share Your Healthy Desserts
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