Healthy eating can be a challenge as we age. Eating problems caused by the decrease of physiological functions are common among the elderly. This may result in an imbalanced diet that may affect nutritional status.
Below are some common eating problems facing by elderly:
- Oral Health Issues
If an elderly facing difficulty in chewing, they may have a problem with their teeth, gums or dentures. Ill-fitting dentures and other oral devices can become loose or uncomfortable or even cause painful sores and irritation.
Foods that are soft, moist and cut into smaller pieces are easier to consume for those who are experiencing oral discomfort. For instance, serve vegetables cooked instead of raw. Serve meals with healthy sauces can moisten ingredients and facilitate chewing and swallowing as well.
- Reduction in Smell and Taste
The elderly will experience a reduction of smell and taste as they age. In order to enhance an elderly’s smell and taste, the family can alter the recipes to include more flavorful spices, herbs, and vegetables. Adding sugar, salt, and fat to a senior’s diet is an easy but unhealthy method of intensifying the flavors of the food. Fresh herbs, a squeeze of citrus, spices, extracts, and different cooking techniques can boost up flavor and aroma profiles.
- Low Vision
If the elderly unable to see clearly the meal served, they are likely to lose interest in food. Cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and other eye conditions can alter an elderly’s visual perception of their meals. Use healthy, colourful foods, separate each part of the meal so that they are clearly defined on the plate. To keep the mealtimes interesting, vary the plate presentations from day to day.
Some medications have side effects that can affect a person’s eating habits. Some prescriptions or medications may cause a direct reduction in appetite or related symptoms like constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bad tastes in the mouth or dry mouth.
- Dining Alone
Meals are often enjoyed more when they are shared with other people. If possible, try to share at least a meal daily with your parent. Recruit other family members, friends and neighbours to join them regularly for lunch, dinner, or even tea and an afternoon snack.
Nutrition Needed by The Elderly
Elderly are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. Eating right and staying fit are important for them. Therefore, certain nutrients also become important for their good health.
- Calcium and Vitamin D
Elderly need more calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health.
For examples: fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, milk and fortified plant beverages
Iron is important to carry oxygen around the body. Good source of Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron as well.
For examples: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal
- Vitamin B12
Many people age more than 50 do not get enough vitamin B12.
For examples: yogurt, low-fat milk, fortified plant-based milk, cheese, eggs, fortified cereals and nutritional yeast
Fiber helps to lower the risk for heart disease, prevent type 2 diabetes and constipation.
For examples: whole-grain bread and cereals, fruits and vegetables
Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium(salt) may lower the risk of high blood pressure. Select and prepare foods with little or no added salt and add flavour to food with herbs and spices.
For examples: fruits, vegetables, and beans