May 24, 2022

senior lady holding supplement and glass of water

Taking vitamins as an older adult is more than just hype.

Minerals, vitamins, and supplements – oh my! Seventy percent of seniors are taking them; but is taking vitamins as an older adult actually necessary? After all, a healthy, balanced diet offers older adults necessary nutrients. But there are specific areas of deficiency that may warrant the addition of a supplement. Make sure to speak with the doctor prior to making any changes, however with their approval or recommendation, consider the following:


Older bones are prone to breaks and fractures when calcium intake is inadequate. This is especially true for post-menopausal women, with an astounding 50% of those over age 50 breaking a bone because of osteoporosis. Having said that, men are also in danger for significant complications from calcium deficiency. A hip fracture in men, for instance, is more likely to be fatal than it is for women.

The very best natural sources for calcium are leafy greens, salmon, kale, broccoli, and dairy products, but most men over age 70 and women over age 50 aren’t getting sufficient calcium from food alone. The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends 1,200 mg of calcium daily for women over age 51 and men over age 71, and 1,000 mg daily for men ages 51 – 70.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is calcium’s closest friend. They work most effectively when taken together to improve not just bone health, but the nervous and immune systems and perhaps the heart as well. Sunshine is the best source for vitamin D, but aging skin in addition to the danger of skin cancer may cause roadblocks to getting sufficient levels.

Recommendations are 15 mcg/600 IU per day up to age 70, and 20 mcg/800 IU per day for individuals over age 71. If vitamin D supplements are advised by the doctor, they should always be taken with food for optimal absorption.

Vitamin B12

Deficiencies of vitamin B12 are common in seniors, and even more so for people who take certain prescription drugs (especially metformin or gastric acid inhibitors). Without an adequate amount of vitamin B12, older adults are more at risk of developing anemia, neuropathy or nerve damage, balance problems, depression, confusion, poor memory, and dementia.

The National Institutes of Health recommends 2.4 mcg each day, that can be acquired through a diet rich in fish and clams, poultry, meat, liver, milk, eggs, and fortified cereals. And unlike other minerals and vitamins, even large quantities of vitamin B12 have not been found to cause harm, in accordance with the NIH.

Considering taking vitamins as an older adult but not sure which dietary supplements are appropriate? Continuum, providers of home care management services in Clayton and surrounding communities, can provide transportation and accompaniment to the doctor’s office to find out. Email or call us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 for more information on how we will help enhance older adult health with professional in-home care services.