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.

Consequences…

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.

Solutions

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
More Healthy Snack Recipes – From You


to Elderly Nutrition

I never thought my Dad would have elderly dietary problems, major changes in his eating habits, changes in appetite. He was practically a gourmet cook, had weekly dinner parties, ate well, and was always conscious of good nutrition.

But I was in for a big surprise when we moved him back here from Arizona, where he lived alone until age 93. And sometimes there wasn’t much I could do.

We all know the importance of nutrition and healthy diet. When we age various elderly issues occur and our appetites can become affected. This leads to poor eating habits, which leads to nutrition problems, which leads to health problems. And this is what I was concerned about with Dad. I found working with nutrition became a big element in my overall elderly health care for Dad.

If your loved one is experiencing any kind of elderly dietary problems such as changes in eating habits or appetite, it is important to get to the bottom of it. Like I had to with Dad. Sometimes the reasons can be subtle, and sometimes loved ones don’t want to admit they’re having elderly dietary problems. Sometimes they simply don’t know.

Here is some helpful information that can help sort it out. Always ask a healthcare professional for advice on these matters, as serious nutrition factors may be at risk.

Common Elderly Dietary Problems

Why Eating Patterns Change

Depression is one of the very common elderly issues. Seniors may feel alone, old, or upset that their bodies and/or minds are no longer in the same “working order.” Depression is a main contributor to poor eating and elderly dietary problems. Think about it. When you feel down or upset, what happens to your appetite? Most people lose it.

Or they may overeat as a temporary way to make themselves feel good. But what do they eat? Usually a lot of junk, especially sweets, bad carbs and bad fats with little or no nutrition.

Depression can also be aggravated by elderly dietary problems, but it can usually be treated. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from depression, seek help from their doctor right away. Dad was always a real optimist and showed no signs of depression. So I ruled this one out with him.

Loneliness and isolation can occur as we age and become less mobile, or experience changes in hearing and vision. It becomes more difficult to socialize, yet eating has traditionally been an important social activity. Elderly dietary problems can occur just from this lack of social interaction.

Dad did have severe hearing and vision loss, and that’s why he moved back here to us. When he was in assisted living it was almost impossible for him to socialize. He dreaded going to the dining room. I found out he was skipping and nibbling in his room… on snacks with too much sodium and salt. which I had to change.

I spoke with the nurse and dining room aids, and they helped him get to the dining room, sat him with people who were kind but not too talkative, and he coped. But not well enough. I eventually moved him in to live with me.

Make sure you include your elderly loved ones in outings and get-togethers as much as possible, and pay special attention to them so they feel included. And include foods that they especially may be interested in — but be sure they’re nutritious.

My friend’s father hardly ever ate except when he was at a social get-together with family or friends. They always prepared a nutritional twist on his favorites.

Our senses change. Aging also causes our five senses to change, smell being one. As you know, smell is directly linked with the sense of taste. So if food no longer has sensory appeal, it isn’t as enjoyable. This disinterest in food can cause severe elderly dietary problems. Dad’s sense of smell seemed okay, especially for foods he was interested in.

Ask your loved one what smells are their favorite and what food aromas they enjoy the most. You can also play a game. Have them sniff various spices and foods and identify what they are and which ones they like best. Make sure those are used in meal preparation. Try special sauces, seasonings and dressings. Talk about foods they use to make or enjoy eating the most, and why.

Sometimes people who had used a lot of salt on their food and now have doctor’s orders for a low-sodium diet, believe food just doesn’t taste the same anymore. Their taste buds, though, can be re-trained by using seasonings and pepper (there are many kinds) instead. Dad was put on a low-salt diet, and he’d been a real salt lover. But he eventually adjusted just fine.

Also try enhancing their sense of smell by lighting scented candles with fruit or spice aromas – but only use candles if someone is there to keep an eye out.

Disinterest in cooking itself will contribute to elderly dietary problems. It may seem more difficult as we age, or not as fun when just cooking for ourselves. Or it may have actually become physically challenging to cook anymore.

Dad had finally become almost unable to cook down in Arizona. Even using a microwave became dangerous because of his sight (what if he set it for two hours instead of two minutes)? So he did a lot of nibbling until he moved back here.

Check with the local senior center — many offer special group meals, at least weekly and sometimes daily depending on the community. This also offers a social opportunity for elderly.

Perhaps family or a neighbor can make a nutritious meal a couple times a week that would also provide quality left-overs. Also consider Meals on Wheels or other community services. Any of these can really help improve elderly dietary problems.

Grocery shopping (and shopping of all kinds) can eventually become major elderly issues, especially if seniors have difficulty driving, lifting, reaching, or seeing. This was a turning point for Dad. He called here in a panic one morning from Arizona. Overnight his macular degeneration caused a lot of bleeding in his eye, and he could no longer get to the store or read any labels on the shelves of the stores, or in his cupboard.

A family member or friend may need to take your loved one to the store. Help choose fresh, unprocessed foods as much as possible, high in vitamins and minerals, to avoid elderly dietary problems. Try to buy enough to have extra basics on hand in case seasonal weather prevents a timely grocery trip.

If there is no one available to drive them, ask the local grocery store if home delivery is available. Many grocery stores now have online shopping as well. After you set up a preferred shopping list the first time and save it, it is very easy to re-order and have it delivered according to the store’s schedule.

Old or contaminated food poses big food safety problems to seniors. Poor food storage is often connected to disinterest in cooking, memory loss, and depression. Loss of vision and sense of smell can also cause problems.

Make sure a family member or perhaps friend regularly checks their fridge and cupboards for expired food or items that have “gone bad.” When we went to Arizona to move Dad, he did have some bad food in his fridge because he couldn’t see.

Memory issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are very serious elderly issues that may cause elderly to forget to eat. Forgetting normal everyday activities, in fact, is a symptom of these illnesses. If you suspect your loved one is actually forgetting to eat – it may be more than just those “senior moments.”

Dad didn’t have much appetite by the time he was in his 90s. He was having some typical memory loss and just forgot to eat. I’m sure if I wasn’t there to feed him, he would have hardly eaten at all. Memory loss not only impacts elderly nutrition, but also a host of other health issues.

All elderly people should receive routine dementia screening after age 65.  Depending on the causes of dementia, there are situations in which there is available dementia treatment.

Money may also be a factor contributing to elderly dietary problems. Seniors may start buying cheaper groceries that are overly processed, high in sodium, have bad carbs, saturated fats and sugars, and are very low in nutrition. This can worsen or bring on other health conditions, including heart problems, stroke, and diabetes.

Check with your county and senior center to see what federal, state, and local programs may be available to assist. See our pages about elderly assistance and temporary financial help. Elderly sometimes resist receiving Food Stamps, but poor nutrition can lead to malnutrition, and is one of the major causes of hospitalization for seniors. I could hardly believe this, but it was verified recently in a special report on one of our news stations.

Some medications are known to cause side effects that affect appetite. Your loved one may not feel like eating, so it is important to make foods available that are appealing, loaded with nutrients, and can be eaten in small portions many times a day (see suggestions below). Our page on Elderly Nutrition Snacks has many easy, healthful ideas to pack in those nutrients, even for nibblers.

I always had a lot of these available for Dad in his room when he was in assisted living, after I found out about his poor nibbling habits. When he moved in with me, we had three plastic containers full of different healthy snacks that he could choose from, by his easy chair.

Teeth and mouth problems may also increase due to elderly dietary problems. If your loved one complains about difficulty chewing, pain or if they have lost teeth, make sure they get checked by a dentist.

Poor elderly nutrition can lead to an increase of cavities and tooth loss. And poor teeth, in turn, lead to further difficulties with chewing – a vicious circle. Choose foods that are soft, like whole grain cereals, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, soups, and creamed dishes. Fresh fruits and vegetables are vitally important for nutrients. They can be grated or finely chopped as well as steamed.

Dad had a hard time eating some seeds, as they always got stuck in his teeth, which drove him nuts because he’d been a dentist. And I knew an older lady whose front tooth broke off from biting into hard nuts. She never could get it fixed, due to the cost.

Find out what dental procedures Medicare and any supplementary medical plan may cover. If there is a university nearby with a dental school, they most likely offer services at very reduced fees, especially to the elderly. Dental students are always checked and supervised by an instructor.

Many states have regular yearly (or twice yearly) free dental clinics set up in a large auditorium or gymnasium, in which the state dental society offers free dental care of all kinds, especially to seniors. My brother, also a dentist, participates in this regularly.

End of Life. We may dread the very idea. But it is a fact that towards end of life, especially in the last six months, physical appetite may wane, as well as previous emotional interest and enjoyment of food. If you suspect this may be the case, be sure to consult a medical professional for advice. However, it may be inadvisable to force your loved one to eat. Even in our local nursing homes, staff (or family) cannot force the residents to eat.

Nutrition Ideas

If your loved ones are not eating a lot, it is very important that when they do eat, they take in the nutrients their bodies need. Seniors need to make sure to get enough protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, and the B vitamins.

Try whole grain crackers, breads, cereals, whole grain chips with a little salsa or healthy dip, natural cheeses, low-salt nuts, seeds, granola, flavored yoghurt, fresh fruits, small pre-cut pieces of meat, and fresh pre-cut veggies — with a flavorful dip on hand. The less processed the better.

Fresh fruit is an excellent means of preventing elderly dietary problems and getting lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants that fight disease, even protein. There are over 200 fruits in our stores at various times of the year, so there’s something for everyone! Just be aware of washing them well and trying to buy organic and local as much as possible, to avoid disease. See more below…

Ask your elderly loved on’es health specialist about vitamin and mineral supplements to help avoid elderly dietary problems. There are special vitamins and mineral supplements available especially for vision, based on a prominent study called AREDS. Dad’s retina specialist approved of these, although Dad’s macular degeneration became too severe for supplements to work.

If your loved one has any loss of vision, ask about these supplements. Dosages for seniors will differ for any supplements, as their systems now assimilate certain vitamins and minerals differently, so can become more easily toxic. It is also crucial to discuss all current medication to avoid problematic interactions with what they are currently taking, with supplements. We always had to review this with Dad’s specialist.

The elderly love “comfort food” and foods that remind them of their past or happy memories. But if this involves a lot of fat or sugar, changes need to be made — subtle at first, until they get used to new ways of eating, like Dad eventually did. It’s important to monitor diet for the elderly and to assure that they are getting a good balance of fresh, wholesome foods, not just prepared foods from a box or freezer.

Precautions should be taken in using fresh foods, however. Elderly dietary problems do not just involve lack of nutrients, good food, vitamins and minerals. Health also involves particular food safety– especially food contamination, some raw foods, fruits and vegetables. Fresh foods are the best source of nutrients, of course, but with the elderly special care should be taken. There is greater risk of becoming sick.

See our main page on Elderly Nutrition, by clicking on the link below.

to Elderly Nutrition

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.
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!


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