Senior adults enjoying a nutritious breakfast together

Why Good Nutrition Is So Important for Older Adults

June 04, 2024

How to Ensure Good Nutrition in Older Adults

Everyone knows how important it is to eat a well-balanced meal, but as years go by, many things can get in the way. And poor nutrition in older adults can pose a serious threat to healthy aging. Here are some reasons why, and how you can help your loved one.

Proper Nutrition in Older Adults: Essential for Good Health

Here are just some of the areas of the body that nutrition impacts: brain and memory function. Heart health. Bone strength. Muscle tone. Immunity. Gastrointestinal functioning. Mental health. So even though older adults have lower calorie needs, their need for nutrients increases. That’s because it becomes harder to absorb nutrients as we age.

According to a article entitled “Nutrition as We Age: Healthy Eating with the Dietary Guidelines”, poor nutrient absorption can be the result of less physical activity, changes in metabolism, or age-related loss of bone and muscle mass. Other factors are chronic health conditions, medications and changes in body composition.

In addition, adults 71 and older in general do not eat enough protein, which is important in preventing loss of lean muscle mass. Good sources of protein include lentils, peas, seafood and beans. As an added bonus, eating more of these sources of protein also delivers calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and fiber.

It can be difficult sometimes to know if an older loved one is getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and strong. Here are some signs of poor nutrition in older adults, offered by WebMD:

  • Fatigue
  • Brittle and dry hair
  • Ridged nails
  • Mouth problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Apathy or irritability
  • Lack of appetite

As you can see, healthy eating is a must for seniors. That means more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and dairy. It also means less sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Overall, it means making every bite count. But for some seniors, that’s hard to do.

Download our free Early Signs of Dementia guide.

Factors that can result in poor nutrition in older adults:

  • Dental issues can make chewing painful or difficult
  • Medications can cause a decrease in appetite
  • Chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can interfere with nutrient absorption
  • Shopping for ingredients, cooking, and preparation might become difficult for a senior with mobility or vision issues
  • Dining alone can be lonely and boring, causing a senior to either opt for unhealthy fast-food items or to simply skip eating altogether
  • Not staying hydrated can make digestion more difficult

What’s the answer?

One option is to consider a lifestyle such as assisted living, where nutritious and delicious food is readily available every day. Your loved one doesn't have to do a thing. Just enjoy! (With no dishes to wash later.)

In today’s modern assisted living communities, ensuring proper nutrition in older adults is a top priority. The experienced culinary team often works in tandem with a nutritionist to ensure that dietary needs are met, while honoring restrictions and special needs. The goal is to keep the menu as fresh and interesting as possible, incorporating delicious familiar favorites with special offerings.

As an added bonus, dining in assisted living is more than just a meal, it’s an opportunity for your loved one to enjoy the good company of friends and guests in a pleasing atmosphere. Holidays and special events are often celebrated with special menus and selections. Wait-staff take pride in offering cheerful, attentive service.

At The Herrick House, three Chef-prepared meals are served daily, restaurant style, in one of our five gracious Dining Rooms. Optionally, for those days when you may wish to have a light breakfast in your apartment, a continental breakfast selection is set out each day. Lighter fare and heart healthy options are always available too.

Nutrition in older adults is just one benefit of assisted living. If you are concerned that your loved one is no longer able to prepare well-balanced foods or doesn’t seem to be enjoying a healthy lifestyle filled with support and socialization, we at The Herrick House invite you to explore how we can help.

A delicious lifestyle awaits! Download our free guide, Early Signs of Dementia, to learn more.

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