With all the busyness in our lives, how often do we grab a cup of coffee and a bagel on our rush to work, stopping for junk food on the way home to avoid the need to cook? Younger adults with a higher metabolism, optimum muscle strength, and less chronic health problems can get away more easily with short-term poor eating habits; but not so for the elderly. Healthy eating for seniors is extremely important and doesn’t cut much slack for “cheat” meals and snacks.
While our bodies go through changes in aging, the necessity for proper nutrition becomes even more critical. Seniors who are malnourished are at a greater risk for falls, anemia, sicknesses, hospitalizations, and much more. It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, we spend over $150 billion yearly in medical costs stemming from elderly malnourishment.
There are a number of hurdles for the elderly to overcome in order to maintain adequate nutrition, such as:
- Medicine side effects, such as impacting flavor and scent
- Problems with eating due to arthritis or dental concerns
- Trouble with the tasks involved with grocery shopping or fixing meals
- Loneliness and depression, making meals less pleasurable
- Lack of motivation to prepare healthy meals when cooking for one
- Monetary limitations
To compound the issue further, medical appointments and checkups often neglect nutritional guidance. According to Simin Nikbin Meydani, director for the Jean Mayer USDA Human Research Center on Aging at Tufts, “If you go to your physician, they will weigh you and check your heart, but they are not measuring your nutritional status.”
So how can we make sure our senior loved ones are maintaining proper nutrition? The MyPlate for Older Adults from Tufts University is a great place to start, outlining simple dietary modifications that are less inhibitive than attempting a complete nutritional makeover. For example, “Tea and toast can turn into a bowl of oatmeal with a banana. It’s just as easy to make,” according to Shirley Chao, of the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs.
Another option is to engage the services of an expert in-home caregiver, such as those at Alaska’s Midnight Sun Home Care, who can help with planning nutritious, delicious meals, running errands such as picking up groceries, and spending time with seniors during mealtimes to stave off loneliness.
For more strategies for helping enhance nutrition for an older adult, contact Midnight Sun Home Care in Anchorage, AK. We can plan and prepare meals that provide healthy eating for seniors – and we’ll even clean up the kitchen afterwards!