Nutrition Seniors - Eating In Old Age

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Nutrition Seniors - Eating In Old Age
Nutrition Seniors - Eating In Old Age

Video: Nutrition Seniors - Eating In Old Age

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Video: How To Eat Right for Older Adults 2023, January
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Diet of the Elderly

A healthy and balanced diet is important in every phase of life and can have a positive effect on health. Meals have a high social significance, especially in old age, as they give structure to the day and ensure enjoyment, joy and community. In addition, an adequate diet that meets their needs can reduce the susceptibility to disease in older people. However, there are many changes in the body with age, which make it difficult to obtain an adequate supply of various nutrients and can cloud the enjoyment of eating.

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  • How does the aging process take place?
  • What physical changes do older people experience?
  • ">What role do obesity, malnutrition and the like play in old age?
  • ">
  • Which nutrients should you pay particular attention to in old age?
  • What should older people and their relatives look out for?
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How does the aging process take place?

The aging process of every person is individual. People aged 65 and over are considered to be older people and are classified as follows:

  • 65 to 74 year olds: young, active senior citizens
  • 75 to 89 year olds: the elderly and the very old
  • 90 to 99 year olds: very old
  • 100-year-olds: Long-lived centenarians

The 65 plus group is also very different in terms of their state of health, independence and the need for care. A balanced diet and the selection of foods with a high nutrient density are particularly important for this age group.

What physical changes do older people experience?

The physical changes depend, among other things, on genetic predisposition and lifestyle (e.g. sport, smoking and eating habits). The physical changes include:

  • Change in body composition (fewer muscles, higher fat percentage, less body water and thus a reduction in the basal metabolic rate),
  • Change in weight (especially the very old can lead to weight loss),
  • decreasing energy requirement, but constant (or increasing) nutrient requirement,
  • decreasing thirst,
  • altered sense of taste and smell,
  • decreased appetite,
  • decreasing chewing performance and possible swallowing disorders,
  • slowed digestion and a tendency to constipation,
  • Changes in the gastrointestinal tract (some foods are no longer well tolerated).

For more information, see Diet and the Aging Process.

What role do obesity, malnutrition and the like play in old age?

Obesity

Due to the slowed metabolism caused by changes in body composition (including a decrease in muscle mass, an increase in fat mass), younger senior citizens tend to become overweight more often. But be careful: overweight people can also have nutrient deficiencies.

Note Obesity is generally considered a health risk. In the elderly, being slightly to moderately overweight can have health benefits. Because: In the event of illness or phases with low food intake, the energy requirement can be covered by the existing fat reserves. A higher BMI is therefore desirable in older people. In this context one speaks of the "Obesity Paradox".

Malnutrition

Older senior citizens are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and underweight. The reasons for this include problems of aging such as decreased appetite, altered sensory perceptions and chewing difficulties. Malnutrition is understood as the insufficient supply of energy, protein and / or other nutrients, usually recognizable by (unwanted) weight loss. This occurs in many elderly people (especially people in need of care). The consequences of malnutrition and underweight in old age include:

  • physical, mental and psychological impairment (e.g. chewing problems, confusion, delayed wound healing and risk of falling or reduced mobility),
  • weakened immune system,
  • delayed recovery after illness.

Note Underweight, which is often due to a lack of muscle mass, is just as unhealthy as being very overweight. Because if you are underweight, the risk of infectious diseases increases, which can lead to further weight loss. Regular weight control is therefore important. However, weight should be assessed with caution, as it alone does not say much about the health of old (geriatric) patients.

Sarcopenia (muscle wasting), cachexia and "frailty"

With increasing age - often in connection with little exercise - muscle mass decreases. This also leads to a loss of strength. This breakdown is called sarcopenia (muscle wasting).

In addition to sarcopenia, cachexia is also common. This is understood to mean pathological emaciation. Cachexia is characterized, among other things, by unwanted weight loss with a decrease in fat and muscle mass, fatigue, weakness and a lack of appetite.

The term "frailty" means "vulnerability" and describes a syndrome of older people. This leads to weight loss, poor stamina and weakness. Fatigue and slow walking are also typical symptoms.

Which nutrients should you pay particular attention to in old age?

Vitamins and minerals contribute to the maintenance of the body's functions and must be supplied to the body in sufficient quantities through food. Some of them are of particular importance with age. These include:

  • Vitamin C,
  • Vitamin D,
  • Calcium,
  • Vitamin E,
  • Folate,
  • Vitamin B12,
  • Magnesium,
  • Iron,
  • Zinc.

What should older people and their relatives look out for?

There are numerous physical changes with age. In order to still be supplied with sufficient energy and nutrients, the following tips can help:

  • Prefer nutrient dense foods. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grain products, milk and dairy products (possibly the low-fat variant).
  • Regular consumption of high-fat sea fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel) and high-quality vegetable oils (e.g. olive oil, rapeseed oil, walnut oil).
  • Enjoy meat and sausage products in moderation (approx. Three times a week).
  • Seldom consume foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar.
  • Use salt and salty foods sparingly. This is especially true if you have high blood pressure (hypertension). Use herbs and spices instead.
  • Select preparation methods that are gentle on nutrients (e.g. steaming, stewing).
  • Drink enough (approx. 1.5 liters per day): Water, mineral water, unsweetened herbal and fruit teas and highly diluted fruit or vegetable juices are suitable.
  • Consciously incorporate drinks into everyday life and drink them before you become thirsty (e.g. drink water or unsweetened tea with every meal).
  • Only rarely consume alcohol!
  • Individual adjustment of the diet in the case of diet-related diseases together with a dietician.

Note Many people suffer from constipation more and more in old age. By drinking enough fluids, increasing the amount of fiber in the diet (e.g. with whole grain products and plenty of fruit and vegetables) and exercising appropriate to your age, you can prevent constipation. If constipation persists, a doctor should be consulted.

For more information, see:

  • Diet and exercise in old age
  • The Austrian food pyramid

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