Eating Well and The Elderly

Eating good, nutritious food is important for our overall health at any age, but for the elderly, eating well is even more essential. A healthy diet can improve mental agility,build your resistance to illness and give energy levels a much-needed boost.

 

Eating well not only keeps our bodies healthy, it’s also vital when it comes to our mental and emotional health. It’s never too late to adopt better eating habits, and enjoying fresh, wholesome food is the key to:

 

Living long and strong

 

A nutritious diet boosts immunity and fights toxins, as well as keeping us at a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

 

A balanced diet, along with exercise can help an older person to retain their health and  independence as they advance in years.

 


Eat good, feel good

 

Eating wholesome food will boost flagging energy levels - and make you look good, resulting in a welcome self-esteem boost! When your body is healthy on the inside, it will show on the outside.

 

Keeping your mind sharp

 

Studies have shown that a diet rich in fruit and leafy vegetables, as well as fish and nuts that are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, can decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as enhancing memory and mental alertness.

 

As we age, eating well is about more than just our food! Quality and variety is important, of course, but just as important is the social side of eating - of enjoying a meal with others; the atmosphere and conversation.

 

But, for many elderly people, living alone can be a contributing factor to a poor diet. Perhaps a partner or spouse has passed, and cooking for one just doesn’t seem worth it. Or maybe it’s the partner who cooked all the meals and did the grocery shopping who is no longer around.

 

Living on a budget can be another reason that older people might not be eating as well as they should. But healthy eating can be done on the cheap. Helping an elderly loved one to plan shopping trips and meals ahead of time, and encouraging them to give up processed food, will help free up enough money to enjoy healthier food.

 

If you are caring for an elderly loved one, how can you help to make sure that they are looking after their health by eating a varied and nutritious diet?

 

Perhaps you can accompany them when they go shopping, or offer to shop or cook for them. Maybe you can share recipe ideas, come over to cook with them, invite them round for a meal, or bring them something you have made at home.

 

However you help your elderly loved one to eat well, it’s important to know exactly what   foods make up a good healthy diet:

 

Fruit and vegetables - no surprise here! Fruits and vegetables in a variety of colours, including dark, leafy greens are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Adults of all ages should aim for 2-3 servings a day.

 

Calcium - It is important to maintain bone health as we age, so an adequate intake of calcium is essential to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. Good sources of calcium include dairy items such as milk, cheese and yogurt; and non-dairy foods like tofu, broccoli, almonds and kale.     

 

Healthy fats - Older people will benefit from a diet rich in healthy fats such as omega 3’s. Healthy fats can support your mood and brain function, as well as protecting your body against disease.

 

Protein - Eating enough high-quality protein as we age is important when it comes to boosting mood, combating stress, anxiety and depression and helping us to think more clearly. However, relying too heavily on red meat as a protein source can increase the risk of heart disease. Mix it up by adding other sources of protein to your diet, including peas, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds and fish.

 

Carbohydrates - Whole grains are much more nutritious than processed white flour, but, as we age, and our sense of smell and taste begins to decline, we are more likely to eat more sugar and refined carbs - as it is the ability to taste something sweet that stays with us the longest! This can lead to older people eating more carbs than is necessary, causing a spike in blood pressure, followed by a rapid crash. Stock up on wholegrain bread and cereals rather than white bread, cakes and pastries.

 

Dietary Changes As We Age

 

So far, so obvious? Maybe. But it’s important to know that following a healthy diet is so important as we age because our nutritional and dietary requirements change...

 

Metabolism

 

Our metabolism begins to slow every year past the age of 40 - plus we often become less physically active around this age. This is why adopting good eating habits as we get older is so important when it comes to avoiding weight gain and all of the health problems that can come along with it.

 

Illness and medications

 

We’re more likely to experience ill health as we age, and some health problems and medications can affect appetite and sense of taste. This can often lead to older people consuming more sugar or salt than they should.

 

Digestion

 

Our digestion begins to slow as we age, and a side effect of this is that our bodies produce less saliva and stomach acid. This makes it harder for us to process certain vitamins and minerals such as B12, B6 and folic acid, which are important for maintaining good circulation and mental alertness.

 

A well-balanced diet can help our bodies to cope with these physical changes and stay as healthy as possible as we age.

 

If you’re caring for an elderly loved one, and are struggling to ensure that they are eating a healthy, balanced diet, get in touch with us here at Care In Kent and speak to a member of our dedicated team.

 

We can help with preparing meals, shopping for groceries, or accompanying an older person to the supermarket, allowing them to retain their independence and make their own choices surrounding their health and diet. Find out more

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