Good nutrition is important for everyone, but it is especially important to senior citizens. Adults 65 and over tend to have different nutritional needs than younger people, often as a result of bodily and lifestyle changes that come with age. Some of the most notable changes that occur during the advanced years of life are:
- Appetite changes: Health issues that come with old age often necessitate the use of prescription medications which can adversely affect one’s appetite or make it harder to keep food down. In addition, the diminished emotional health that tends to accompany old age can lead to an either diminished or enhanced appetite.
- Metabolism changes: The metabolism tends to slow down with age, especially in cases when the individual has a primarily sedentary lifestyle. People with a slower metabolism will burn fewer calories and therefore require less food to maintain a healthy weight. This makes it especially important to make food choices that are high in nutrients.
- Digestion changes: Seniors tend to produce less digestive fluid, making it harder to absorb needed vitamins and minerals.
In order to preserve health as much as possible, it is often necessary to make dietary modifications that compensate for these changes in older adults.
Meeting Nutritional Needs
There are a variety of ways to improve senior nutrition, but there are a few key items that should be included.
- Heart-healthy foods: Limiting certain fats, such as those found in red meat, will help prevent heart disease, a common ailment among seniors. Also, many foods with healthier fats, such as fish, tend to decrease the risk of heart disease. At Senior Care Centers, we offer menu options specifically marked as heart-healthy options.
- Vitamin B12: With the decrease in digestive fluids that comes with advanced age, it is harder for seniors to absorb vitamins such as B12. Making sure a diet is rich in this and other nutrients is key to preserving good health and preventing complications such as anemia.
- Calcium: Healthy calcium intake is crucial for seniors, especially when preventing bone diseases such as osteoporosis. When taken with vitamin D, calcium helps build stronger bones.
- Water: Drinking plenty of water is crucial for everyone as it prevents dehydration and painful kidney stones. Water can be consumed either by drinking it or eating foods high in water content, such as soup, melons, or cucumbers. Some items, such as caffeinated beverages, can actually dehydrate the body, so it is generally best to consume these in moderation.
- High protein: Beans, nuts, eggs, chicken, and fish all provide much needed protein without the high fat content of certain meats.
- Fiber: Eating whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables provides fiber to the body. This helps digestion and prevents heart disease. In addition, raw fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients without having a high calorie count.
In addition to eating nutrient-rich foods, having a variety of different options can also help seniors obtain all the nutrients they need. At Senior Care Centers, we provide our residents with a variety of nutritious menu options year round while ensuring that their dining experience is as dignified and independent as possible.