Elderly nutrition is of utmost importance as we age in order to
maintain our health and quality of life. I sure learned that when caring for Dad. But following a nutritious diet
is not always easy. (I also learned that!)
Especially for senior citizens. As we age we undergo sometimes sudden changes physically, mentally, emotionally. All of these can impact eating and nutrition. As the saying goes, "We are what we eat."
I became especially aware of this when Dad moved here from Arizona, at age 93. Particularly when he eventually moved in to live with me. He'd always been really into nutrition and healthy food and was a really good cook. But as he aged that became more difficult. I was startling to see just what he was (and was not eating) when he lived at the assisted living facility before moving in with me.
Elderly Eating Issues
Elderly sometimes lose their appetites from a myriad of reasons, and don't eat correctly. They may not feel like eating or are simply lonely. Or depressed. They may have trouble with their teeth and trouble chewing. They may not have the energy, or are on limited budgets and buy inexpensive and non-nutritious foods. Whatever the reason, being aware of elderly nutrition is vital.
It can make an enormous difference in disease control for the heart, blood pressure, stroke, dementia, blood sugar; and for healing and maintaining all-important vision as we age.
And elderly like to
snack, like Dad did.
But on what? Or they may enjoy good old comfort food. Well, maybe some is okay. Like a little chocolate -- there are, after all, some health benefits of chocolate. But certain comfort food can be surprisingly terrible for us.
We have lots of tips about healthy snacking! See our recommended snacks to just have on hand, on the Elderly Nutrition Snacks page. There are loads of super-healthy (and delicious) suggestions for snackers of any age. Especially great for those who don't or can't cook, have small appetites, and snack a lot. Now you can make sure to get plenty of nutrition.
Today's elderly may not have been eating with the awareness of nutrition and foods that we now have, and thus have developed eating habits that may have led to current health issues, or are in danger of causing others (for example: lots of butter and other fats, a lot of foods high in sodium -- which my Dad just loved -- large amounts of dairy, sugar, canned and over-cooked foods, lots of red meat, bad carbs and starches). Plus all the easy, empty, harmful snack foods available now.
How Can It Make A Difference?
Eating and snacking with proper nutrition can make a huge impact on quality of life.
For instance, my children's great-grandparents simply cut way down on sugars, fats, and junk snack foods, and began taking multiple vitamin-mineral supplements -- when they were in their mid-80's. (Under the supervision of their doctor). Within weeks they reported that they felt more energetic and happy. And had better "internal plumbing" activity. They slept better. Their cholesterol and blood pressure also improved. They lived at home, relatively healthily, until they were both in the mid-90's.
What About Supplements?
I personally believe taking a vitamin-mineral supplement is a good idea, especially since our over-used soil does not contain the same amount of nutrients as before, so even fresh food may be lacking. Again, my kids great-grandparents, who live into their mid-90s, always took supplements with their doctor's OK.
When a family member (a nurse) convinced them it wasn't necessary, they stopped. And felt immediate repercussions with lack of energy, getting sick, and foggy minds. When they resumed taking supplements, they felt better within weeks. Dad has taken a supplement for decades. But always consult a medical professional first.
So what can you do
to assure good elderly nutrition?
We address these issues further in our various pages about elderly nutrition, and have lots of tips. It's great information for anyone, not just elderly.
See list of topics below.
You may have some understanding about the basic food groups that are recommended for everyone.
From time to time the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revises the
original 1992 Food Pyramid, to an updated version. It was called
MyPyramid.gov now called ChooseMyPlate.gov, Their
overall motto now is, "One size does not fit all."
You can even complete a
short online form about your age, height, weight, gender, exercise,
etc., and you will receive a recommended food plan just for you. Again,
this is only in general terms, but it is very helpful for an appropriate
elderly nutrition plan.
Here's a quick review of the basic food groups:
-- Grains (whole grains), vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans, and also oils (liquid oils, nuts, some fish, olives, avocados) --
What you should eat depends on your age, gender, weight, exercise, and health issues. These basic food groups will help point you in the right direction of finding resources for your specific needs. Your doctor should ultimately advise you about your diet.
Besides diet, regular exercise is always recommended. It is
ideal to make a goal of 20 to 30 minutes per day (which can be divided
into two sessions), four days per week. Even elderly with limited
mobility can usually be taught appropriate exercise. See our pages on Easy Exercise for Seniors, including what my dad does at age 97!
See More Tips About Elderly Nutrition
Elder Nutrition Problems -- Learn about specific nutrition problems for the elderly, why they happen, and what to do.
Some may be more subtle and you may not realize what is happening. Some, to me, were a bit shocking.
Nutrition Food Values -- See our overview about Food Groups, what nutritional values they provide, and how nutrition can ward of disease.
Favorite Fruit Nutrition Facts -- Some favorite fruit nutrition facts are that fruit can get the body to practically vacuum itself out. Sort of. Not to mention that all-important age defying help. And then there’s memory…
Elderly Dietary Problems -- Elderly dietary problems can be brought on by simple, everyday changes in eating habits -- but have big-time health effects, including malnutrition, one of the common elderly issues (which has been on our local news several times, in fact).
Healthy Snack Recipes -- Healthy snack recipes are becoming almost a rage these days. And we’ve got some super-delicious, super-easy, super-healthy ones for all ages. I had to learn all about healthy snacking when I started taking care of Dad.
Delicious Healthy Dessert Recipes -- Our healthy dessert recipes are delicious and fresh. Lots of ways to modify and use them too, including for low salt or sugar ideas. Some are from Dad's own recipe book, and he was a great cook! Check these out!