As we grow older and our bodies evolve and change with the process of aging, nutritional requirements change too.
Seniors have a different set of nutritional needs in their older years than they did when they were younger, and many seniors’ diets are not properly altered to meet their bodies’ needs. To promote the best possible state of health and wellbeing, seniors and their caregivers should make themselves aware of what their bodies require in terms of vitamins, nutrients, and types of food.
Ageing Brings Changes
The changes that take place within the body in older age necessitate that seniors consider their food choices and make intentional decisions about the foods they are putting into their bodies. Seniors need to make sure that they are caring for themselves properly, and that their eating habits promote better health. Many aspects of older age, including changes to the physical body, daily routines, abilities, and perceptions, mean not only that the body needs different things, but also that new obstacles are present that might get in the way of a lifestyle of healthy eating.
- Environment/Situation: Multiple factors related to environment and lifestyle can come into play to alter eating habits. Lack of ability to go out and buy or transport healthy food, as a result of lack of transportation or anxieties related to venturing outside the home, might lead seniors to depend on less healthy convenience foods or not to eat enough at all. Similarly, worries about finances may mean that seniors buy smaller amounts of food or choose cheaper, but also less healthy, options. Loneliness can also lead seniors to avoid meal times, as cooking or eating alone emphasizes feelings of solitude and isolation.
- Gastrointestinal: Some of the most valuable foods for seniors’ nutrition, like fruits and vegetables, may be avoided more and more often by seniors as they begin to encounter challenges like chromic gastritis, gas, constipation, and delayed stomach emptying because these foods may become uncomfortable to digest.
- Perceptions: Changes in senses of hearing, smell, and taste can affect the experience of eating food in several ways. Difficulty hearing companions talking during meals can be frustrating enough to discourage seniors from eating with company, and can minimize enthusiasm for eating full meals entirely. Senses of smell and taste impact the level of enjoyment of food in meaningful ways, and can lead to dislikes of many foods, as well as preferences for those foods that are less nutrient-dense and healthy.
- Teeth: Condition or loss of teeth, as well as dentures, and other changes in dental health can lead to avoidance of certain foods.
Each of these changes, in combination with others, have their own influences on seniors’ health and nutrition and should each be addressed in order to recognize gaps in nutritional intake and build a plan to make sure seniors get all that they need in their diets to stay healthy.
Malnutrition is often detectible in seniors in the forms of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, loss of appetite, illness, and behavioural symptoms. The absence of a balanced diet can cause imbalances and deficiencies in fundamental vitamins and nutrients, such as folic acid, niacin, and vitamins A, B, C, D, E. To prevent the consequences of poor nutrition, it is important that seniors make healthy eating a steady part of their lifestyles, by consulting and paying attention to the dietary guidelines outlined by Canada’s Food Guide, and by working with healthcare professionals if more specific needs or concerns come arise that need to be attended to through dietary adjustments.
Making sure that seniors keep up a diet that gives them proper nutrition, in the form of all the required calorie amounts, vitamins and minerals that their bodies require, will help to keep the seniors of Edmonton in better health.