With different stages of life come different nutritional needs. The elderly is one age group that needs special attention in terms of diet and healthy nutrition. When someone reaches the age of 65, he is considered part of the younger bracket of the “elderly” group. They can be categorized in four groups—the aged (90 years old and above), the elderly (80-89 years old), the aging (72-79 years old), and the middle aged (60-71 years old).
BENEFITS OF DIETING FOR THE ELDERLY
Having a planned and healthy diet prevents a lot of digestive problems for the elderly such as constipation, chewing and swallowing problems, and gas and heartburn. There are different ways of dealing with these problems by integrating a specific dietary plan to their meal.
- Constipation can be countered by drinking a lot of fluids. Eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grain bread and cereals also help in better digestion.
- Cutting food into small pieces and drinking plenty of liquids will help solve chewing and swallowing problems.
- Lozenges and hard candies can moisten the throat to ease the swallowing process.
- Flatulence and heartburn can be countered by small frequent feedings.
- Avoiding carbonated drinks, alcohol, and fatty foods will also ease abdominal problems.
- Heartburn can be prevented by not reclining after eating.
COMMON HEALTH PROBLEMS OF THE ELDERLY
High blood pressure
Increased blood pressure is common to the elderly. Limiting salty foods and having a heart-healthy diet will help lower blood pressure.
High blood sugar
Sweets and alcohol should be avoided if not lessened to prevent high blood sugar. A high fiber, low calorie diet will help keep blood sugar at a manageable level and will aid in removing clogged fat in the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin.
A diet that is low in saturated fat will help in preventing heart disease. Limiting the intake of solid fats such as shortening, butter, and margarine will reduce saturated fat in one’s diet.
ELDERLY DIET AND RELATED FACTORS
Certain nutrients decrease when people age. These deficiencies need to be met so that the body can adapt better and even function at its peak regardless of how old the person is.
Supplements can help in fulfilling the minerals that are mostly lacking in the elderly. Calcium and Iron are the foremost minerals that they need. Vitamins also help in optimizing the major nutrients in the body such as fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Some of these necessary vitamins are Vitamin B Complex, C, E, A, K, and D. Ideally, these vitamins and minerals should be in the diet of the elderly but since it is commonly insufficient, these supplements will help augment it.
The older a person gets, the more movement he needs to make. The frequency and intensity of exercise varies from one person to another. As people age, more activity should be added in their routine such as walking, jogging, swimming, and other forms of exercise.
The elderly have less energy requirements because of the decrease in their metabolic rate and physical activity. However, if they eat less they will also get less of the nutrients they need. They should have a balanced diet with all the protein and calories they need even if they are in smaller portions.
Seniors should drink at least 1.5-2 liters of water each day. They need to balance off the water excreted from their body and drink water regularly.
When people age, the antioxidants inside their bodies become less efficient. Antioxidants are usually found in vegetables and fruits that are rich in potassium. Some of which are broccoli, plums, artichokes, and cranberries. Fiber-rich foods are also vital to the senior diet such as green peas, oats, raspberries, and oranges. Protein intake usually decreases as one gets older; this can be compensated by eating eggs, chicken, lean meat, and lentils. Vitamin B12 is another essential nutrient for seniors that can be found in sardines, flounder, and salmon. Calcium is needed to strengthen the bones of the elderly. Thus, substantial intakes of milk will be most helpful along with yogurt, cheese, and green leafy veggies. Other vital nutrients like Vitamin D and B6 can be found in spinach, bananas, fish, and whole grains.
Part of aging is the decrease in muscle or lean body mass and the increase in body fat. It is important to know that there is a 15% decline in lean body mass between the ages of 30-80. A decrease in calorie intake is needed to counterbalance the increase in body fat. A 10% decrease in calories is required for every ten years in one’s life.
TIPS FOR QUICK MEALS
Preparing a meal can be difficult with the elderly. Eyesight problems, movement restrictions, and lack of appetite are just some of the factors why healthy eating can be a challenge for them. Certain staples need to be in stock for easy access such as milk, dried fruit, canned meat and fish, breakfast cereals, crackers and biscuits, low-sodium soups, oatmeal, and others. Fresh fruits should also be readily available as well as different liquids like water, juices, cocoa, tea, and coffee to keep them hydrated.
The elderly need special guidance in their nutritional needs. With the decrease in their activity and energy levels, they lose vital nutrients and minerals that their body needs. Having a well-balanced diet will help in meeting nutritional deficiencies and preventing health problems for the elderly.