Nutritional needs change as we age. Whether you are a senior, the concerned child of a senior, or a caregiver, it is important to understand how our nutritional needs change as we age. Many seniors suffer from the effects of having a diet that is low in nutrition.
This is unfortunate because of the many benefits of having a healthy diet, such as:
- Increased mental acuteness
- Resistance to illness and disease
- Higher energy levels
- More robust immune system
- Faster recuperation times
- Better management of chronic health problems
All of the items listed above contribute to a much higher quality of life as we age. Part of the problem of a low nutritional diet stems from the fact that as we age, our relationship to food changes along with our bodies. When we are younger, we might grab fast food on the run and not think twice about it. In later life, however, eating well can be the key to staying mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and maintaining a strong immune system and a positive outlook.
Many seniors find that there are significant obstacles in maintaining a healthy diet. Knowing and understanding what these obstacles can be is the first step toward helping your senior gain some better nutrition in their diet. These obstacles can include:
- Decreased activity level. Seniors will often cut back on activity for physical and medical reasons. Weight gain can result from the decrease in calories burned, and poor digestion can become a problem.
- Lifestyle changes. Newly single seniors may not know how to cook, or may not feel like cooking for one. In addition, many seniors are on limited budgets and might have trouble affording a balanced, healthy diet.
- Metabolism. The metabolism slows down as we age and this can become a problem in maintaining a healthy diet.
- Taste and appetite. As we age our senses of taste and smell diminish, so some seniors may be inclined to season their food more heavily than before (even though seniors need less salt than younger people). In addition, they may struggle with loss of appetite due to lifestyle, loneliness, or a medical condition.
- Health issues. Physical ailments and prescription medications can often negatively influence appetite. It is important to talk to your doctor about overcoming side effects of medication, or specific physical conditions.
- Digestion. Due to changes in your digestive system as you age, you will generate less saliva and stomach acid, making it more difficult for your body to process certain vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B6, and Folic Acid, which are necessary to maintain mental alertness, a keen memory, and good circulation.
- Emotional factors. Emotional factors such as loneliness and depression which can affect your diet. Eating with other people, getting out, and reestablishing a social life can all be helpful if this is part of the problem.
For many seniors the obstacles of eating a nutritionally balanced diet can be helped with some minor interventions. Getting meal delivery, eating out socially, or having a caregiver to encourage and help facilitate better eating habits can all help make a great change in diet and nutritional intake.
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.