Proper nutrition is important at every age, but nutrition needs change with time. Just as infants require special foods they can process, so too do older adults who have experienced physiological changes they may not even be aware of. Older adults may also have physical problems that impair their ability to eat, take medications that inhibit appetite, or may simply be unable or unwilling to prepare healthy meals. The result is poor nutrition in older adults, something that is becoming a health concern nationwide.
Aging is aligned with the body’s slowing ability to absorb nutrients from food. According to the webmd.com article, “Older Adults: 9 Nutrients You May Be Missing” these include vitamin B12, folate (folic acid), calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium, and they may also be getting too little fiber, omega-3 fats, and water. In addition, older adults have fewer taste buds making foods taste bland and may also have trouble chewing due to poor dental health or problems swallowing which can make seniors avoid eating meals and opt for small unhealthy snacks.
Illnesses and associated medications can also wreak havoc on nutrition in older adults by making foods taste bad, suppressing the appetite or causing nausea, and some can even add to the nutrient absorption problem.
Mobility and agility are also factors to consider with nutrition in older adults who may find it difficult to shop, cook, and clean up. If they cannot get healthy foods and prepare them, a balanced diet becomes a challenge that may not seem worth it to them.
Last but by far not least is the problem of eating alone, which can make mealtime something to avoid rather than enjoy. This is especially true for seniors who live alone, or who lost a spouse or partner who cooked for them and ate with them. What once was a family event has become an exercise in loneliness and not something to look forward to. Find out the risks in the senior living.com article, “Senior Living: The Risks of Eating Alone.”
There are some very obvious signs of poor nutrition in older adults like weight loss, but others may not be so obvious or may not seem connected to nutrition. Among these are difficulty doing daily tasks, tiredness and fatigue, tooth loss, problems with memory or concentration, loss of appetite, lack of interest in food, inability to heal normally, vision problems, digestive symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, and lower immunity. While these issues can also be caused by other things, poor nutrition can only exacerbate them. Learn more in the exercisesforinjuries.com article, “10 Signs of Malnutrition in the Elderly.”
One key to improving nutrition in older adults is to concentrate on quality, rather than quantity. According to the grayingwithgrace.com article, “The Top 10 Nutrition Tips for Older Adults,” this means adding “nutrient-dense” foods rather than calorie-rich foods. Since seniors may not eat as much or need as many calories as they used to, getting the most bang for your buck per serving can help. Among these foods are salmon, kale, and shellfish as well as others described in the healthline.com article, “The 11 Most Nutrient-Dense Foods on the Planet.”
Another great way to improve nutrition in older adults is to take them out to eat or join them at home for meals as often as possible. This is an opportunity to spend time together, but also to observe how well they are eating and if they are experiencing any eating problems. If you notice any problems be sure to have them see a dentist or physician to get them resolved.
Another idea is to try new recipes. A great place to start is with soups like those in the betteraging.com article, “7 Soup Recipes Ideal for Senior Nutrition” that are especially nice as the weather cools and can be easy to eat for most seniors. Also consider the importance of protein with meals. Check out the ideas from the eatingwell.com articles, “30 High-Protein Dinners for Healthy Aging” or “19 Low-Carb Dinners That Are High in Protein.”
One of the easiest ways to improve senior nutrition is a move to a community like Thrive Senior Living where daily meals are a not-to-be-missed event. Our chef-inspired meals are made with the freshest ingredients and crafted to meet the special dietary needs of residents. Served in a beautiful dining room, residents feel like they are out to a favorite restaurant with friends and can truly enjoy eating again!
If you’re not sure about making the move to a senior living community, download our free guide, Staying Home vs. Senior Living: Should You Stay or Should You Go? Learn more about Thrive’s communities, housing choices and amenities by contacting us today!