What we eat can affect overall health and well-being. It is especially important for older adults, who often have special nutritional needs due to the changes of aging.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital is offering a free educational program about the “Nutritional Concerns of Older Adults” on July 19. LMH
LMH Registered Dietitian
Registered Dietitian Barbara Hermreck will share information at the monthly Senior Supper and Seminar event.
The physical changes of aging may impact the senses. Decreased sight, taste and smell can diminish enjoyment of one’s food. Sensitivity to salty or bitter often occurs first. Instead of adding more salt or sugar, try adding herbs and spices for flavor. Some medications and illnesses can affect appetite as well as taste. Talk with your health care provider or pharmacist if this is occurring.
Many older adults face challenges in chewing certain foods. Some meat products and raw vegetables and fresh fruits may present difficulties. Try softer foods like cooked fresh vegetables, canned unsweetened fruits, ground or shredded meats, or alternative sources of protein like eggs, beans, tofu or fish.
Certain nutrients may not absorb as easily as when we are younger. Many older adults are less physically active and their calorie needs often decrease. It is vital to choose nutrient dense foods — foods high in nutritional value and low in calories — and to pay close attention to portion control.
Digestive problems may increase gas or bloating. Avoid or limit foods that can worsen this problem such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, carbonated drinks, chewing gum, milk, and sugar alcohols found in sugar-free foods (sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol).
Constipation can occur with aging and many medications. Increasing dietary fiber by eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains can help, as well as increasing fluid intake, especially water.
Older adults usually need extra calcium for maintaining strong bones. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women age 51-plus get 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day and men 50 to 70 years 1,000 milligrams of calcium, with 1,200 milligrams for those 71 and older. It is preferable to get calcium from foods and beverages such as milk, yogurt, kale or almonds.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. With aging, the skin may become less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D. This vitamin comes from sun exposure and some foods such as fortified milk, cereal or juice, fatty fish and eggs. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether a calcium and/or vitamin D supplement is recommended for you.
Older adults often need more vitamin B12. This vitamin is important for red blood cell production and nerve function. With aging, our stomach produces less gastric acid making it harder to absorb B12. Eat more foods rich in or fortified with this vitamin, like eggs, fish, meat or milk, or consult your healthcare provider about the appropriateness of a supplement.
Increasing potassium rich foods and decreasing high sodium foods, especially processed foods, may help to lower blood pressure. Potatoes, prunes, dark leafy greens, beans, fish, yogurt and bananas are some good sources of potassium.
Other minerals that we may not get enough of include folate, magnesium, zinc and iron. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, lean meats and whole grains can generally help meet these mineral needs. Vitamin C may be deficient, especially in smokers. Many fruits and some vegetables are good sources of this vitamin.
The sense of thirst can decrease with aging. Older adults need to remember to drink water or other beverages without added sugar regularly, especially during hot weather. Those with certain health issues like kidney or liver diseases may have fluid restrictions. Check with your health care provider before significantly increasing any fluids.
Many people live alone as they get older. Shopping, preparing nutritious meals for one and eating alone can be difficult. Seek out others to dine with. Community meals are a great opportunity to socialize with others and eat nutritious meals.
What to do
For more information on nutrition for older adults, consult a registered dietitian.
Visit choosemyplate.gov/older-adults or nia.nih.gov/health.
Contact Douglas County CHAMPSS program through the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging: jhawkaaa.orgor call 800-798-1366 or 832-0754.
On the third Tuesday of each month, LMH offers a Senior Supper and Seminar. At 5 p.m., senior adults are invited to come and dine at LMH for $5.50 and enjoy a healthy three-course meal prepared by the LMH Unidine chefs, plus conversation with others. At 6 p.m., there is a short educational program on a health or wellness topic. Advance reservations are required for the supper and must be made at least 24 hours in advance by calling LMH Connect Care at 505-5800 or sending an email to email@example.com. Seating is limited for both the supper and seminar so please enroll early. The seminar portion is open to adults of all ages.
— Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, a major sponsor of WellCommons. She is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.