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As part of the aging process, many older adults change their eating habits. It may be intentional – due to financial concerns – or even unknowingly. Some may think their bodies need less food/nutrition because they aren’t as active as they were. While many senior adults may require fewer calories, the food on their plates still needs to contain good nutrition!
Some older adults may have trouble chewing and swallowing, or simply not feel motivated to create a healthy meal for one. Seniors may shy away from “healthier” foods thinking they are too expensive, or they may simply feel lonesome during mealtime and skip a meal. A recent study by Oxford Economics uncovered a strong correlation between unhappiness and eating alone.*
Is the senior adult in your life skipping meals? Are they eating nutritious meals? Do you even know? Poor nutrition can cause a litany of senior health issues, such as:
• A weakened immune system
• Vulnerability to infections
• Poor wound healing
• Loss of muscle mass and strength, which can lead to falls (a senior falls every 11 seconds).
• An increased risk of hospitalization
• Heightened morbidity rates
• Cognitive impairment can compromise nutritional health because unintentional weight loss often occurs with dementia
Are you a caregiver to an older adult? You can help! Follow these tips:
• Encourage the senior in your life to eat a variety of food from all food groups
• Include fruit and vegetables at every meal (use frozen or canned if cost is a concern)
• Include whole grains, protein and dairy at every meal
• Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
• Invite friends and family members to share a meal with your loved one to reduce boredom and loneliness. Seniors typically eat more when they are dining with others.
• Spice it up. Encourage your loved one to use a variety of spices besides salt. When food is more interesting to their taste buds, they may eat more.
• If dental issues are impairing your loved one’s ability to eat, schedule a dental checkup
• If you are still concerned about nutrition or weight loss, check with your senior’s doctor about vitamin supplements.
*”The Friend Effect: Why the Secret of Health and Happiness Is Surprisingly Simple,” The Guardian, www.theguardian.com, May 23, 2018