World Class Nutrition for the Elderly & Old People
The elderly & older persons remain the fastest growing segment of the population world wide. This group is also most susceptible to many nutritional defincient health risks from a nutrient-poor
diet. Studies have shown that lifestyle choices are more influential than genetics in determining health, functioning, and vitality
in later life.
Physiological, psychological and economical changes in the later years can all contribute to poor nutrition among the elderly. Disturbing evidence suggests that a significant number of frail elderly fail to eat properly for the nutrients
and the energy levels needed.Arthritis
makes it difficult for the elderly to shop for and prepare food. A decreased ability to taste and smell can also affect the enjoyment of food. For the elderly, poor dentition, loss of teeth and poorly fitted dentures can cause chewing problems and mouth sores, making eating difficult.
Those living alone and who face financial difficulties tend to skimp on food, and may cook only one dish a day to be eaten over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some neglect their nutrition because they lack the cooking skills and knowledge about nutrition (especially after the death of the spouse who used to prepare the meals in the household), suffer from loneliness and depression, or weakness and fatigue. Others consume too much deep-fried, oily food instead of more nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.
Effects of ageing and nutritional issuesMetabolic rates and energy needs decrease with ageing
The challenges for the elderly are to get about the same amount of nutrients as before, but with fewer calories to prevent weight gain. This means choosing nutrient-dense foods.
Decrease in lean tissue mass and an increase in body fat
With a reduction in physical activity, lean muscle mass diminishes. The elderly will need protein-rich foods in their diet to maintain lean tissue mass. Poor intake of food may be compounded by digestive difficulties, oral and dental problems, and medication-related eating and nutrient problems.
Skin synthesis of vitamin D diminishes
The skin of an elderly person skin is less adept at converting ultraviolet light in sunshine into vitamin D, so there is a need for a dietary source or supplement of this vitamin.
Limited secretion of stomach acid
This affects the absorption of vitamin B12, folic acid, calcium, iron, and zinc and may result in deficiencies. There may be a possible need to increase food sources of such vitamins and maybe consider supplements.
Tips on nutrition for the elderly
Eat a variety of foods.
Exercise regularly to maintain and/or achieve a healthy weight.
Take a quality Multi-Vitamin.
Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Wholegrains and fortified cereals also contain nutrients such as folate, zinc, calcium, vitamins E and B12, which are often lacking in the diets of elderly. Eat wholemeal bread /brown rice instead of white bread/white rice. Add chopped, cooked dark green leafy vegetables like spinach or kailan to soups, stews or rice dishes for more iron.
Eat less high-fat foods. Instead, choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Use low-fat, high-calcium milk instead of full cream/sweetened condensed milk in coffee or tea as it contains more calcium and fewer calories/fat.
Choose a diet moderate in sugars, salt and sodium.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit your intake to not more than 2 glasses a day.
Aim to drink at least six to eight glasses of fluids a day.
Fruits are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals (plant chemicals) and antioxidants.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt are the best source of calcium. 2 glasses of low-fat or skimmed milk a day will help meet daily requirements. If plain milk is not appealing, try flavouring it with chocolate, blending it with fruits or mixing it in soups, or taking it in the form of milk shakes. Other sources of calcium can come from fish with edible bones (ikan bilis, sardines), dried peas and beans, beancurd (tofu) and calcium-fortified soyabean milk and orange juice.
Other Considerations for the Elderly
Elderly who live alone should keep some food stores at hand in case of emergency (such as rainy spells where they may not be able to do grocery shopping, or if they are ill), when moving around is difficult or inconvenient. This way, their diet will not suffer.