We know the basics to a healthy diet, but what do we really need to know about seniors and their nutrition? First of all, there are many age-related challenges we often don’t think of. As seniors get older, they continue to have a decreased sensitivity to foods, this can take the satisfaction away from eating. Memory loss is a big problem as well, if you don’t remember what foods you do and don’t like, each meal can be intimidating. Also, side effects from different medications affect many things, including a decreased appetite. Knowing what the possible side effects of medications are before taking them is important for this, and many other reasons. The rise of depression is unfortunately a big challenge as well. One of the biggest side effects of depression is a decreased or extinct desire to eat.
With these age-related challenges come some serious nutritional problems. Weight loss is a big one. Weight loss can cause all kinds of problems in our seniors including a declining ability to do activities of daily living, an increased chance for hospital visits, and a poorer quality of life. Dehydration is also a daily struggle; a senior should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day. The side effects of dehydration are very real and serious. Confusion, dizziness, difficulty walking, and sunken eyes are a few of the many side effects. With a decreased sensitivity to foods, salt is often a very popular addition to every meal. With all of the extra sodium intake, high blood pressure is a serious problem. High blood pressure can result in heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and eye problems.
With all of these age-related challenges and nutritional problems, there are many things we can do to prevent them. Taking a trip to the nearest grocery store or simply asking what foods are enjoyed by our seniors is a great first step. We should be offering nutrition-dense foods like whole grains, unprocessed foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and foods high in protein. Encouraging snacks that are high in nutritional value between meals is also a great idea. Instead of salt, try enhancing the flavors and aromas by adding herbs and spices to make meals more enjoyable. Finally, try to make each meal a social event that is fun and exciting in order to recreate the joy of eating.
Now that you know about age related challenges and nutritional problems, make sure to watch for early warning signs and help out as much as possible in order to have a happy, healthy, food loving senior.