The normal nutritional needs for maintaining constant state of good health remain throughout the life of an individual although his/her nutritional needs of growth disappear (Wylie, & Copeman, 2009, p.377). Proper nutrition is critical to good heath of elderly individuals.
Evidence has shown that good nutrition can help older people to remain independent, alert and healthy, but dietary changes should be introduced gradually so that their poor digestion can adapt with time (Adam, 2011, p.91). The daily nutrient recommended for elders may be relatively meaningless because the bodily processes are less efficient. However, a good supply of a well-balanced vitamins and minerals can be helpful especially if taken on a regular basis as recommended by nutritionists.
For example, an older person should have a juice or sliced fruit with cereal, a baked potato with roast beef, vegetables with fish, or fruit with chicken and tomato slices in a cheese sandwich, or salsa with a bean burrito to boost the intake of calcium (Adam, 2011, p.93).
Although older people gradually become less active thus reducing their calorie requirements, vitamin and mineral needs remain unchanged (Kim, & Taylor, 2005, p. 35).
In addition, poor appetite and insufficient energy to walk and even cook reduces the intake of nutrients at a time the body may be becoming less efficient in the way it uses them. “The challenge for the elderly is to meet the same nutrient needs as when they were younger, yet consume fewer calories” (Kim, & Taylor, 2005, p. 37).
About 60 percent of calories should come from complex carbohydrates, which put less stress on the circulating blood glucose. Such carbohydrates have a good share of fiber, which in turn lowers their chances of ‘intestinal inflammation’.
As a working way of solving the problem, the elderly people ought to select foods that are rich in nutrients compared to their calories such as low-fat milk, which is more nutritious than regular milk. Protein needs usually do not change for the elderly, although its supplies can be altered depending on the nature or the duration of the disease one suffers from.
Protein absorption may decrease with decline in kidney function as one ages, hence its intake should not be increased as such could unnecessarily stress kidneys. They should also take adequate fluid, to help maintain normal bowel function (Wylie, & Copeman, 2009, p.379).
Medication interferes with the absorption and metabolism of nutrients and vitamins. This is because some use more than one drug as well as over-the-counter medicines whose effect on an already less efficient metabolism is loss of appetite and reluctance to exercise. Second, inadequate finance and food storage facilities affect the recommended diet.
However, lack of food storage facilities may make the exercise as often go to shop. Third, physical disabilities affecting food preparation, poor access to shops, difficulties in undertaking the shopping as well as the type of cooking facilities affect the nutrition of this group of people.
Fourth, isolation and bereavement is another factor that creates loneliness that in turn makes the individuals vulnerable to nutritional inadequacies, which significantly affects their ability to exercise their bodies.
As Kim and Taylor (2005, p. 34) point out, “Elderly people living in the community with restricted mobility may be unable to consume an optimum nutritional intake due to their health and social factors identified, which affect their food choices and nutritional intake”. It is therefore important to ensure that nutritional needs for elders are met throughout life for the maintenance of their good health.
Adam, D. (2011). Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life in Older Adults.
Journals of gerontology, 56(2), pp.89-94.
Kim, L., & Taylor, M. (2005). Factors associated with physical activity among
older people-a population-based study. American journal of preventive medicine, 40(1), pp.33-40.
Wylie, J., & Copeman, S. (2009). Health and social factors affecting the food choice and nutritional intake of elderly people with restricted mobility. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 12(5), pp. 375–380.