Eating healthy at any age is important for good nutrition, but for older adults it’s even more critical as nutritional needs shift. There is a need for adequate nutrition for well being, quality of life, and vitality. Sadly, many seniors don’t eat as well as they should for a variety of reasons. This may result in poor nutrition or malnutrition.
How Senior’s Bodies Change
There are many reasons why our bodies change as we grow older, including conditions related to perception, physiology, and general age. All of these changes affect the performance of the whole body of each person, which in turn affects our diet, nutritional intake, and overall health.
Changes later in life can influence our nutrition, such as changes in hearing, smell, and taste:
Decreased hearing affects our ability to maintain good nutrition. The frustration and dissatisfaction of being unable to hold a conversation at a restaurant or at a social function with our eating partner can hinder one’s enjoyment of eating.
The lack of scent can have an enormous impact on the types of meals that you choose to consume as it can be less pleasurable, which can lead to poor food choices.
One of the most common complaints is about the decreased taste of food. Our taste for salty and sweet is the same as our taste buds decrease, often times making food taste bitter or sour. This can lead to fewer fruits and vegetables being eaten by people.
One reason for changing nutritional needs is due to physiological changes:
Due to a decrease in basal metabolic rate and physical activity, intake typically decreases with advancing age, thereby reducing calorie needs.
Our bodies are also beginning to experience a deterioration in kidney function, body composition transformation, and improvements in the nervous system.
Why Malnutrition Happens in Seniors?
In the elderly, obesity is seen in varying degrees, along with differing deficits in vitamin and calcium. Malnutrition is caused by under nutrition, shortages in nutrients, or imbalances. They have mild signs of malnutrition, such as loss of appetite or lack of overall confidence and well-being.
Common dietary shortages include insufficient intake of A, B, C, D, and E vitamins, folic acid, calcium, and niacin. Malnutrition may also result from certain socio-economic risk factors, such as:
- Fear of personal safety
- Lack of health insurance
- Financial concerns
- Institutionalization or hospitalizations
- Lack of interest in cooking or eating alone
- Loss of a spouse or family member
How Seniors Can Have Better Nutrition?
Good nutrition plays a vital role in older people’s quality of life. This is why it’s important to use preventive medicine and focus on good eating habits.
Health professionals recommend that the U.S. follow a nutritional program for preventive health maintenance, such as the American Dietary Guidelines. Agriculture Department (USDA) and Health and Human Services Department (HHS). This outlines two preparations for eating:
- The USDA Food Patterns
- The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan
What Is the Recommended Daily Nutrition for Seniors?
The USDA Food Patterns recommends that people 50 or older choose healthy meals every day from the following:
- Fruits — 1½ to 2 ½ cups
What is the same as ½ cup of cut-up fruit? A 2-inch peach or ¼ cup of dried fruit.
- Vegetables — 2 to 3½ cups
What is the same as one cup of cut-up vegetables? Two cups of uncooked leafy vegetables.
- Grains — 5 to 10 ounces
What is the same as one ounce of grains? A small muffin, a slice of bread, a cup of flaked, ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice or whole-grain pasta usually equal one ounce of grains.
- Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces
What is the same as one ounce of meat, fish or poultry? One egg, ¼ cup of cooked beans or tofu, ½ ounce of nuts or seeds or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
- Dairy foods — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
What is the same as one cup of milk? One cup of yogurt or 1½ to 2 ounces of cheese. One cup of cottage cheese is the same as ½ cup of milk.
- Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons
What is the same as oil added during cooking? Foods such as olives, nuts, and avocado have a lot of oil in them.
Fairmont Grand Senior Living Community
Fairmont Grand is a resident centered senior living and memory care facility in Rapid City, SD. Our goal is to create an environment where resident well-being is at the heart of everything we do.
Our wide range of services are designed to meet you or your loved one’s daily needs. We offer restaurant style dining options, a variety of physical activities, and give residents the opportunity to live as independently as possible.