Good nutrition is important regardless of age. However, because of the increased likelihood of health problems and frailty, eating a healthy diet is even more important for seniors. Unfortunately, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), older adults are especially susceptible to malnutrition. Understanding the nutritional needs of seniors could help you to ensure your aging relative is getting all the nutrients they need.
Why Do Seniors Have Different Nutritional Needs?
As people age, they need fewer calories. Older people tend to move around less, and their metabolisms slow down. Also, having less muscle tissue requires fewer calories. Needing fewer calories does not equate with needing less nutrients, though. That leaves older adults with the dilemma of needing just as many nutrients, if not more, and having to pack them all into fewer calories each day.
Another age-related change that affects the eating habits, and therefore nutrition, of older adults is a change in the way their body senses thirst and hunger. Senior bodies don’t feel hunger and thirst as keenly as younger bodies. This can make older adults prone to dehydration and losing weight without meaning to.
How Can Senior Nutrition Be Improved?
Meeting the nutritional needs of older adults is mainly a matter of making the most of the amount of food they can eat. To ensure they get enough nutrients, the foods they eat should be as nutritious as possible. Some of the nutrients that are especially crucial as people age are:
- Protein: Eating more protein can help prevent muscle loss. Senior care providers can offer small snacks that are loaded with protein, such as a hard-boiled egg or crackers with peanut butter.
- Fiber: Fiber regulates the digestive system, preventing constipation. Senior care providers can prepare meals and snacks that include fibrous foods, like fruits and vegetables.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium is important to bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Senior care providers can make meals that include calcium-rich foods, like dairy products, broccoli, and kale. The body can produce vitamin D on its own when the older adult is exposed to healthy amounts of sunlight. A senior care provider can help your aging relative to spend some time outside each day as the weather allows.
- Vitamin B12: As people age, they are less able to absorb B12 from the foods they eat. Vitamin B12 is important for the production of healthy blood cells. Eating foods that are fortified with B12 can help, especially since the form of B12 used in fortified foods is easier for the body to absorb.
Shopping for groceries and making meals for older adults can be time-consuming given the amount of extra thought goes into ensuring the foods they eat are nutritious. Senior care can take some of the pressure off family caregivers by taking the older adult grocery shopping. Senior care providers can also prepare healthy meals and snacks that your aging relative can simply warm up at meal times.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring senior care in Rahway, NJ, call the caring staff at Helping Hands Home Care today at 908-418-4299. Providing Home Care Services in all of Northern and Central NJ, including Clark, Westfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Rahway, Linden, Summit, Edison, Elizabeth, Mountainside and the surrounding areas.