How Nutritional Needs Change as You Age
Healthy cooking for a single person can be taxing, especially for seniors who live with health conditions that make cooking more difficult. If you are an adult child, you may find yourself worrying about what your parent eats and how healthy their diet is.
Knowing what the guidelines are for senior nutrition, along with the barriers that keep older adults from eating healthy is important.
Nutrition Guidelines for Seniors
Scientists at Tufts University are considered to be leaders in the field of senior nutrition. They developed an easy-to-use set of guidelines for helping older adults make good nutrition choices.
One resource is My Plate for Older Adults and another is My Food Pyramid for Older Adults. Both offer visual images of what a senior needs to incorporate in to their daily diet to maintain their best health.
These guidelines suggest older adults focus on menus that include:
- Whole, enriched, and fortified grains and cereals
- Bright-colored vegetables
- Deep-colored fruit
- Low- and non-fat dairy products
- Dry beans and nuts
- Fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs
- Liquid vegetable oils and soft spreads low in saturated and trans fat
- Eight glasses of water each day
Why Older Adults Don’t Eat Healthy
A few reasons seniors are more likely to have a poor diet include:
- Time and Expense: Some seniors feel like the expense and time involved in cooking healthy meals for just one person are too great. Fast food and frozen dinners are easier and less expensive.
- Physical Impairments: Chronic health conditions more common with aging can make it more difficult to cook. Hands that shake from Parkinson’s disease, vision loss and Osteoarthritis can make food prep chores such as slicing, chopping and dicing tough.
- Transportation: A diet rich in fresh foods requires more frequent visits to the grocery store. For older adults who may have cut back on or given up driving, finding transportation to and from the grocery store may be a challenge.
Strategies for Helping a Senior Improve their Diet
Here are a few tips you can use to help your senior loved one improve their nutrition:
- Stock their Freezer: If you live close to your senior loved one, set aside a day once or twice each month to help them plan and prepare healthy entrees to stock their freezer. If you are separated by too great of a distance to do this, consider hiring an aide from a home care agency to help. They can assist with these tasks when you can’t be there.
- Reminder Calls: Sometimes a senior might just need a little encouragement to stick with to their healthy dietary goals. You can check in by phone or video chat each day to provide that.
- Mobile Meals: Call the agency on aging nearest to your older loved one’s home to find out what options there are for home delivered meals in their area. Most communities have non-profit organizations that deliver healthy meals each day on a sliding scale fee.
- Vitamins and Supplements: If your loved one hasn’t had a physical in a while, encourage them to schedule one. Their primary care physician can test to see what vitamins they may be lacking and make recommendations on supplements that might help to improve their health.
Senior Living Communities Promote Healthy Nutrition
One of the advantages a retirement community offers is well-balanced meals that are prepared for residents three times every day. Five Star Senior Living’s Signature Dining makes meal time a healthy, social experience for residents.