At any point in our lives, a good diet is the key to nutritional health. However, for older adults, the physical changes that occur later in life have the potential to severely impact our bodies’ ability to take in nutrients and stay healthy. As we age, our bodies naturally become more vulnerable. Our metabolism slows, bones and muscles weaken, our immune system balks and our digestive system reacts differently. Just as we needed a high-nutrient diet when we were growing children, the same habits apply for a healthy senior lifestyle.
“Our bodies don’t take as great of care of themselves the older we get,” says Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL. “In order to stay as healthy as possible, we need to supplement the changes we experience with nutrients found in what we eat. Aside from regular exercise, eating well is the most important thing we can do for our own health.”
Let’s take a closer look at the aging process and how nutrition can balance out our bodies’ changes.
Changes That Occur with Age
No matter how healthy we are, aging bodies naturally go through many changes. According to the USDA and the National Institute on Aging, several of these age-related changes have a lot to do with our nutritional levels. Some include:
- Loss of appetite
- Decrease in a sense of thirst
- Pain in the teeth and gums
- Loss of taste and smell
- Slower metabolism
In addition, we’re more likely to experience health problems the older we get. For example, seniors experience a higher risk of:
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Loss of bone density
- Digestion issues
- Weight gain
While some of these health issues may be caused by conditions beyond our control, we can help to compensate for the loss of nutrients and health by eating well.
Reacting to Change by Enhancing Nutrition
Fortunately, many of the issues mentioned above can be improved, remedied and prevented by committing to a healthy and nutritious diet. If you find it hard to work up an appetite, try making mealtimes special by socializing with friends. Or, if you can only eat a small amount, make sure it’s a nutrient-rich snack, like peanut butter and fruit or a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts. Drink water even when you don’t feel thirsty. Get creative when it comes to the taste and texture of your food, using herbs and spices while cooking and trying out new smoothie recipes with nutritious ingredients.
When it comes to our physical health, many common concerns and ailments among seniors can be addressed through what they eat. Reducing sodium will help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart problems. Calcium will strengthen bones and fiber can greatly enhance digestion. Consider the benefits of other nutrients:
- Carbohydrates – fruit, vegetables, dairy, sugar, bread, cereal, rice, pasta
Carbs are the body’s main source of energy. They’re also a good source of fiber, which can help with stomach issues and digestive problems, such as constipation. A high-fiber diet can also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
- Protein – seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy
Proteins are important for your body to build and repair tissues, as well as produce energy. They also help the body fight infection, keeping you healthy from viruses and other illnesses.
- Fats – oil, butter, mayo, salad dressing, cream, nuts, avocado
We all know that an excess of fat in our diet is bad, but not all fats are created equal. Some fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for you and even necessary for good internal health. You can find these in nuts, peanut butter, fish and seeds. Saturated and trans fats – found in processed, packaged foods, butter, red meat and cheese – aren’t as healthy and are often how we end up consuming too much fat in our diets.
- Vitamins & Minerals
While food is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs, it is possible to take supplements in order to get the recommended amounts of certain nutrients. However, you should ask your doctor first before you start taking over-the-counter supplements, as they may be unnecessary or interact with your current medications.
Nutritional Wellness for a Healthy Lifestyle
“The changes our bodies experience as we age are inevitable, but how we respond to them doesn’t have to be,” shares Reier. “Once seniors make a conscious effort to compensate for new health norms with a high-nutrient diet, they’re likely to find that their health concerns decrease. Building great habits takes time, so it’s a good idea to start now!”
At Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, residents enjoy full support when it comes to maintaining proper health through a nutritious diet. With a specialized dining program that caters to seniors’ nutritional needs, staying well and meeting health goals are just a normal part of daily life for our residents. Learn more about our dining experience here.
We Would Love to Hear from You!
If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also welcome you to share any caregiving insights or experiences in our comments section.
Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.
Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.
Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.
For more information, please call Diane at 847-243-6920.
Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.