When it comes to proper nutrition, one size does not fit all. Although it might sound surprising at first, senior citizens have special dietary needs that should be followed in order for them to live their best and healthiest lives.
The United States Department of Agriculture explains that older people have very specific needs when it comes to nutrition, and some of the information is truly surprising in terms of what nutrients and vitamins are needed. When dealing with the body’s natural aging process, ensuring proper nutrition is even more important than it is for younger people.
An Aging, Changing Body
As people age, several things come into play when it comes to nutrition. Often older people lose their appetite and experience differences in smell and taste that lead to them eating less food or making less healthy choices.
Additionally, oral health often declines at this time, and the elderly often experience a reduced ability to swallow, which also affects food choices. Other mobility problems, such as not being able to open jars or lift heavy ingredients also impact the food choices of aging adults.
Older people and their families need to be very cognizant of these changes so that proper nutrition can be maintained.
Pump Up the Protein
Although protein is important for all people, it takes on a special role for aging adults. As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass, and this affects mobility, strength, and balance. One of the biggest risks for aging adults is the risk of falling, and proper protein intake works to alleviate that risk because it builds strong muscles.
Eating lean meats, beans, fish, lentils, Greek yogurt, and eggs will help to ensure adequate protein intake so that older people can maintain their strength and mobility.
Focus On Nutrients
We all know that getting the proper nutrients each day is imperative when it comes to our health. But recent research from the National Library of Medicine reports that there are specific nutrient recommendations for those over 70 years of age, as the ability of older adults to absorb and use nutrients becomes less efficient as people age. Surprisingly, older adults tend to need more nutrients as they age, not less.
To keep an aging body running smoothly, concentrate on getting enough calcium found in dairy products, green leafy vegetables and other foods fortified with calcium. This helps promote strong bones and will ward off osteoporosis. Potassium is another important nutrient that helps rid your body of waste products. Bananas, sweet potatoes, oranges and spinach are rich in potassium. Vitamin D helps your body absorb other nutrients, especially the calcium that is needed for strong bones. Find it in fish, fortified cereals and orange juice. Finally, fiber is found in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and keeps your digestive system running smoothly. All of these nutrients will help a body maintain its balance.
Beware of the B’s
As people age, they tend to develop chronic medical conditions that wear on their bodies, and people also end up requiring more medications. Unfortunately, many medications can interact with foods and negatively affect the way nutrients are absorbed.
Some interactions are also nutrient-wasting, and this is especially true for the B vitamins. B vitamins affect cell metabolism, the function of the brain, and even energy levels. Older adults need to ensure that they are getting enough vitamin B, especially if they have established medical conditions. Eating food filled with proteins such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products will help in getting adequate amounts of vitamin B. Other choices include peas, beans, and leafy green vegetables.
Eat in Community
Beyond what you eat, how you eat is equally important. Elderly people don’t always have the energy or wherewithal to create a healthy meal for themselves. And mealtime is supposed to be a life-giving time when people can enjoy being together in a community. Eating in a community helps people to eat more healthy meals as well as feel more connected to others and happy with their lives.
With so much riding on nutrition in the aging body, The Inn at Belden Village takes our residents’ health and nutrition very seriously. A registered dietician works with our chef to prepare three healthy meals each day that will be pleasing to palates and offer the nutrition our residents need. We also have a beautiful modern dining room that fits the bill both for nutrition and community. Many of our residents have friends they connect with at consistent meal times, and eating these nutritious meals becomes the highlight of the day.
In order to live a healthy lifestyle for as long as possible, aging adults need to consider their nutrition very carefully. But at a time when they might be facing other physical and mental health challenges, it is not always easy to have the healthy lifestyle they need on their own.
Contact us today at The Inn at Belden Village, a caring community that prioritizes the nutrition and health of our residents.