Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
There are special nutritional considerations for senior citizens
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
Practicing healthy eating habits is important for everyone but it may be even more important for senior citizens. Contributing to the increased needs for healthy foods are the chance for developing chronic disease, dental problems, depression, frequent use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs and the decrease in the senses of taste and smell.
The chance for developing a chronic diseases increases as we age. Developing a chronic disease, such as diabetes, changes nutritional needs. This can be hard for people who have eaten one way for their entire life and now need to eat differently. Chronic diseases can also limit a person’s ability to consume a healthful diet. An example would be a person with arthritis who has difficulty shopping for and preparing meals.
Dental problems such as the decay or loss of teeth can make it difficult to chew food. Ill fitting dentures can also make it difficult to chew food. Dental problems can develop gradually over time. Often people are compensating for the inability to chew by simply not eating as much or eating the same foods over and over. Look for soft foods such as canned fruit instead of fresh fruit. For a good source of protein easier to chew foods include beans, cottage cheese, fish, eggs and peanut butter.
Depression is fairly common among senior citizens. This can result in severe weight loss. Weight loss can contribute to an increase in falls, slow or prevent healing and cause fatigue. Don’t accept the fact that you are feeling low and have less energy than you used to. See a professional for diagnosis and treatment of depression.
Senior citizens are the most common users of both prescription and over-the counter medicines. Some medicines can cause a decrease in appetite and others can impact the absorption of nutrients. Be sure to ask your pharmacist if your medicine can impact your nutritional status.
As we age, our sense of taste and smell decreases. As the sense of smell diminishes, appetite also decreases. When the sense of taste is diminished it isn’t as much fun to eat so people tend to quit eating. Herbs and spices can enhance the flavor of food making them more enjoyable to eat. Salt enhances the flavor of food but it is not recommended that you increase salt intake. Salt can be responsible for an increase in blood pressure.
Seniors often find themselves in a catch 22 when it comes to eating healthfully; they need to eat healthfully to manage age-related nutritional problems and they can’t eat healthfully for the same reason. It is important to make every effort to consume a wide variety of healthful foods, get regular exercise and drink plenty of fluids. As this is accomplished it may just get easier to achieve every day.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009