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Nutrition and Healthy Aging

Seniors and Nutrition

The challenges of hunger and under-nutrition among America's aging population.

Published: Feb 24, 2015

Seniors & Nutrition

Good nutrition contributes to a greater quality of life for seniors.

More than 1 in 3 seniors in the care of others is at risk for under- or mal-nutrition (Mayo Clinic/American Dietetic Association). Malnutrition is the lack of proper nutrition, not necessarily a lack of food. Detecting malnutrition in seniors may be difficult, and even seniors who eat enough may be eating the wrong foods to keep themselves healthy. At ANGELS EMBRACE®, we help seniors live healthy, independent lives and promote senior nutrition through the Nourish Senior Life® initiative.

As seniors age and change, so do their nutritional needs. Making sure those needs are met makes a real difference in their quality of life.  Caregivers or family members should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hunger or malnutrition in older adults, which include the following:

  • Watch for physical problems, such as poor wound healing, easy bruising and dental difficulties.

  •  Keep track of weight loss, which may require purchasing a home scale or transporting the older adult to the doctor’s office for weight checks when the individual is unable to stand without assistance.

  •  Pay close attention to seniors’ eating habits and ask them to tell you where and when they eat, but don’t rely on self-reports a lone. Since our caregivers, the people we call ANGELS EMBRACE®, often spend mealtimes with seniors at home, they may have a better idea of normal eating habits.

  •  Suggest family members visit during mealtimes, which can improve a senior’s consumption. If a senior lives alone, make sure you know who is buying his or her food.

  • Know what medications an older loved one takes and whether they can affect appetite and digestion. Use the resources available through your local retail pharmacist to check for drug nutrient interactions or possible side effects of prescribed medications.

  • If there are medical questions regarding nutrition, medication, and health, ANGELS EMBRACE® suggests seniors, their family members, and other caregivers speak with doctors about tests that can help identify chronic malnutrition or other nutrition-related problems.

How Many Calories Do Seniors Need?

  • A woman over 50 needs from about 1600 to 2000 calories a day, depending on whether she is physically inactive to very active.

  • A man over 50 needs from about 2000 to 2800 calories a day, depending on whether he is physically inactive to very active.

  • In addition to calories, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking water all day long.

Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods

  • Fruit - Focus on whole fruits rather than juices, about 1.5 to 2 servings/day.

  • Veggies - Think color. Choose dark leafy greens as well as orange and yellow vegetables, 2 to 2.5 cups/day.

  • Calcium - 1,200 mg/day through servings of dairy, tofu, broccoli, almonds, kale.
  • Grains - Choose whole grains for more nutrients and higher fiber, 6-7 oz./day.
  • Protein - .5 grams per pound of body weight. Lean meats, fish, beans, peas, nuts eggs, milk, cheese, and seeds.
  • Supplements - Ask your doctor about Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, or a multivitamin.

Chewing or Upset Stomach Problems?

  • Choose soft canned fruits, and creamed, mashed and cooked vegetables.
  • For protein, use ground meat, eggs, milk, soft cheeses, yogurt, cream soups.
  • If milk upsets the stomach, try yogurt, puddings and cheeses.
  • If cabbage and broccoli are a problem, there are many other vegetables to choose.

Shopping or Cooking Problems?

  • Request local food store deliveries, and investigate local volunteer programs.
  • There are many frozen and prepared foods that simply need to be microwaved.
  • Senior citizen programs offer cooked meals, either at their location or home delivered.
  • Use our agency to provide shopping and cooking assistance.

Appetite Problems?

  • Eat with family and friends, and take part in group meal programs at senior centers.
  • Find out if your meds are causing appetite or taste problems - if so, if they can be changed.