March 20, 2017

Nutrition for Seniors: With all the busyness in life, how often do we grab a quick cup of coffee and a bagel on our rush to work, stopping for fast food on the way home to avoid the extra task of having to cook? Younger adults with a higher metabolism, optimal muscle strength, and fewer chronic health conditions can get away more easily with temporarily poor eating habits; however, this is not so for the elderly.

While our bodies change in aging, the necessity for proper nutrition for seniors becomes all the more critical. Seniors who are malnourished are at a heightened risk for falls, anemia, illnesses, hospitalizations, and much more. It’s estimated that as a nation, we spend over $150 billion yearly in medical costs stemming from elderly dietary deficiency.

There are multiple hurdles when it comes to promoting proper nutrition for seniors, such as:

  • Medication side effects, such as impacting taste and scent
  • Problems with eating due to arthritis or dental concerns
  • Difficulty with the tasks involved with buying groceries or preparing meals
  • Lonesomeness and depression, making meals less enjoyable
  • Lack of motivation to prepare healthy meals when cooking for one
  • Financial limitations

To make matters even more difficult, doctors’ appointments and checkups often neglect nutritional guidance. Per Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Research Center on Aging at Tufts, “If you go to your physician, they will weigh you and check your heart, but they are not measuring your nutritional status.”

So how can we guarantee our senior family members are maintaining proper nutrition? The MyPlate for Older Adults from Tufts University is a good place to begin, outlining simple dietary changes that are less inhibitive than trying a complete dietary makeover. For example, “Tea and toast can turn into a bowl of oatmeal with a banana. It’s just as easy to make,” according to Shirley Chao, of the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

Another option is to engage the services of an expert in-home caregiver, such as those at Continuum, who can help with planning wholesome, delicious meals, running errands such as picking up groceries, and spending time with seniors during mealtimes to stave off loneliness.

For more strategies for helping enhance nourishment for an older adult in St. Louis or the surrounding area, contact Continuum. We can plan and prepare healthy meals for seniors – and we’ll even clean up the kitchen afterwards!