Nutrition and the Elderly

As we age our nutritional needs change. Those changes can be impacted by a diminished sense of taste and smell.  These physical changes are normal, yet it is important that we make sure our loved ones get enough good foods to eat.  Foods high in protein and nutrients.

The Elderly tend to slow down physically as they age. In doing so they often change their eating patterns. In doing this, a deficit in the daily intake of needed vitamins and nutrients is created.

Changes in Appetite

It is a normal expectation that our appetite changes as we age, there are several factors that can attribute to a loss of appetite:

  • Food lacks taste, our taste buds decline therefore our taste in salt lessens as well.
  • Our love of sugar tends to hang in there longer and can cause poor nutritional choices in the elderly. Filling up on sugary foods often leads to obesity among the elderly.
  • Hearing loss interferes with social interactions during meal time thereby diminishing the eating experience.
  • Medicines can affect the taste of food or suppress the appetite.
  • Lower energy levels can affect the cooking and eating of food.
  • Dental issues, loss of teeth, poor fitting dentures can cause people to avoid solid and gummy foods.

What Can I do as a Caretaker?

Aging brings with it a multitude of natural changes that can create a decreased in the    appetite of our loved ones.

  1. Prepare meals that are brightly colored. Lean proteins, dairy, high fiber foods, green leafy vegetables and fruit.  If your loved one refuse to eat making them smoothies.  You can add wheat germ, for protein, with fruit vegetables and low-fat plain yogurt.
  2. It is important that our loved ones receive the right nutrition. Vitamin and nutrient deficits can produce health problems.  Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, and Magnesium are just a few of the go to supplements that we need to make sure are in the elderly diet.
  3. Sugar/sweet cravings should be satisfied with food that is naturally sweet such as fruit or sweet vegetables such as peppers.
  4. Oils, especially olive oil for cooking is needed in the daily diet. Foods that can be used in lieu of oil are, nuts and avocado’s.
  5. Hydration!! As we age our sense of thirst diminishes.  Caregivers must be aware of this along with the fact that the elderly cannot always get up to get a drink for themselves.  Juice, water, coffee, tea, milk, popsicles, fruits such as watermelon that are high in water content and soups. Many little drinks throughout the day.

Here Are Some Ways To Increase the Appetite in Our Aging Loved Ones?

Weight gain or weight loss can signify nutritional issues in the elderly. Contacting a medical practitioner is your first step.  After that here are a few things you can do to help your loved one:

  • *Eat as often as possible with your loved one(s), encourage social meals with friends extended family members, church groups or senior centers.  When you eat with them, especially if you are trying to change their nutritional intake, you need to eat what they are eating.  In doing this the transition to the “new” food won’t seem so extreme to them, especially if you have had to change their eating habits significantl
  • *Increase their activity level if at all possible. Walking, shuffle board, yoga, light aerobic, gardening, biking and swimming are all options for increasing their activity level.
  • *Consistency is comforting to our loved ones. So is being well nourished.  Set up a regular meal schedule.  Remember to add in nutritious snacks and plenty of water.
  • *Portion size doesn’t need to increase but vitamin and nutrient dense food does. Make sure that the foods our loved ones are eating are rich in vitamins and nutrients.
  • *Medications can cause eating issues especially with how things taste.  Try using lemon, spices, herbs to increase a more pleasant flavor.  Add cucumber, lemon or limes slices to water to add a little zip.