Maintaining healthy nutrition for seniors becomes more difficult with age. Seniors have more health requirements that can make getting the right nutrition a challenge. Their metabolism slows, and they are not as interested in food as they once were.
As a caregiver, it is important that you make sure your parent is getting the nutrition they need through food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many life events can alter a senior’s eating habit and cause them to lose interest in food.
When a senior loses a loved one or doesn’t have as much daily interaction with family and friends, eating can be a lonely event. They also lose their sense of smell with age which can make food unappealing and tasteless.
It is key that a senior has good nutrition, so they don’t develop malnutrition, undernourishment or illnesses as a result of poor eating habits. As a senior ages, the needs of their body can change, and this can alter their food requirements as well as their eating habits.
It can be socially difficult for a senior that has diminished hearing to eat in public or order food as they can become embarrassed due to not hearing properly. This no longer makes mealtimes an event and can cause a senior to avoid eating altogether.
Seniors may also have poor nutrition as a result of financial issues that prevent them from buying food or a fear of going out in public to purchase the food they need to have a healthy diet. You can help with these issues by making sure your parent is getting the proper nutrition they need by stocking their home with an adequate and healthy food supply.
Maintaining nutrition in seniors is imperative to helping them live a healthy life and increasing their energy levels. Poor nutrition can result in fatigue and be the catalyst for other illnesses that an elderly person may experience in their lifetime.
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Challenges For Seniors And Nutrition
With age comes changes in the body for a senior. This can make it more difficult to eat and enjoy the food. Changes in the senses can create a lack of interest in food while body changes can make it more challenging to want and need food.
These changes are common as some seniors age and have less of a requirement for nutrition:
- Dental issues: Having dentures or loss of teeth can make it more difficult to eat and make a senior more sensitive to nutrition needs. This can cause a senior to avoid eating certain foods or at all because of the discomfort they experience when they do so as a result of their dental issues.
- Stomach and digestion problems: If a senior is experiencing gas, gastrointestinal issues or constipation from eating certain foods, they will avoid eating fruits and vegetables that are necessary for their health. This can reduce the vitamins and minerals that they body needs to remain healthy.
- Lower energy levels: This can cause a senior to have lower energy as they are no longer interested in eating large amounts of food. While they don’t require the caloric intake that they once did, they can easily become fatigued as a result of poor nutrition.
- Regular body functions: With age, the kidneys don’t operate as efficiently as they need to and this can cause a senior to forego eating healthy. Other changes to the nervous system can affect food choices and make it difficult for an elderly person to get the proper nutrition they need on a daily basis.
- Hearing loss: Reduced hearing can make it difficult for a senior to enjoy eating with others. They may isolate themselves or avoid family functions where they know their hearing will be an issue. This prevents social eating for seniors and can have a detrimental effect on how they feel about food.
- Reduced food taste: With age, a senior’s taste buds can decrease their effectiveness. This can lead to foods that they once loved not tasting as good. Foods can become too salty or bitter for a senior to enjoy and can affect the food choices that they make based on how they now taste to them.
- Loss of smell: The inability to smell foods can make mealtime a turn off to seniors. They can develop a disinterest in food as a result and not feel like eating because nothing seems appealing to them.
Overcoming these challenges can be difficult for a senior that is looking for the right nutrition. Body changes can alter how they feel about food and cause them to lose interest seemingly overnight.
Healthy Nutrition For Seniors
As a caregiver, you need to watch for signs that your parent is not incorporating healthy nutrition for seniors and ensure they are eating from all food groups daily. A proper meal for a senior should include foods from all food groups and present a colorful plate that looks appetizing to the palette.
Keep in mind that a healthy meal should include:
- Lean meats
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
Sodium intake also needs to be considered as well as high doses of fiber in the foods that are prepared for a senior’s meal. Fiber can aid in digestion and make foods easier to process for a senior with stomach or gastrointestinal issues.
Tips To For Nutrition In Seniors
Making food attracting to seniors and allowing them to see the importance that nutritional value plays into how they feel and how active they are can help make mealtimes more enjoyable for them. Keep these tips in mind when preparing for a senior that has been having difficulties eating.
- Make the plate colorful: Choose foods that have a variety of colors at meal time to make them more appealing to a senior to eat.
- Choose foods from all the food groups: Having a variety of foods on a plate that is made up of all the required food groups can ensure that a senior gets the nutrition they need to remain healthy.
- Read food labels: When purchasing food for a senior, it is important to read the labels and make sure the food that you are buying has all the necessary vitamins and minerals they need. Look for foods with low sugar, reduced sodium, and that are lower in fat content.
- Be mindful of serving size: While a senior will have a reduced need for calories, it is still imperative to watch serving sizes. It is recommended that a senior keep their daily calorie intake to 2000 calories a day unless they are looking to gain or lose weight.
- Provide plenty of hydration: Dehydration can occur easily in seniors that forget that they need water to maintain their healthy lifestyle. Watch for drinks that have large amounts of sodium and steer clear of high overuse of soft drinks. Water, coffee, and tea are the ideal way to hydrate a senior
Nutrition For Seniors Over 80
Nutrition for seniors over the age of 80 requires special consideration. Helping these seniors with their nutrition can allow them to live a longer life with breaking bones or becoming susceptible to chronic illnesses.
When caring for a senior over 80 and their nutrition, you should increase their protein intake to help keep their muscles healthy and their strength up. Calcium intake should also be ramped up to help with osteoporosis that develops at this age. To help with the increase in calcium, the nutrition for a senior over 80 should include additional vitamin D to help absorb the calcium into their body. This can also help reduce cancer and hypertension in seniors.
Because constipation is a factor in many seniors, increasing their fiber intake over the age of 80 can help reduce these issues. Plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains should be introduced into the diet to ensure proper digestion and easier bowel movements.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also essential to a senior over 80 and their nutrition. Found in fish, these acids can help to reduce cholesterol, provide heart health and reduce blood pressure.
Caring for a senior means watching their nutrition levels carefully. You want to ensure they are getting the healthy diet they need to retain their health now and into the future. Be aware of how mealtimes can affect a senior and the difficulties they may have while eating. Assist them in preparing meals and make sure to provide them the proper nutrition they need to remain healthy and live a long life free of illnesses and malnutrition.