Healthy Eating for the Elderly: Part One

Healthy Eating for the Elderly: Part One

Caring for ones aging parents is never easy.  There is a lot of vital information that you need to be aware of. An important aspect to caring for your aging parents or loved ones is helping them with their diet.  As we age, our dietary needs change and it’s important that you be aware of these changes so you can help plan meals accordingly and alert their doctor to abnormal changes.  Today we’re going to focus on  a few changes than can affect your loved ones’ diet.

As we age, our digestive system begins to slow down which causes your body to make less saliva and stomach acid. This change makes it more difficult for your parents to process vitamins and important minerals like B6, B12, and Folic acid, which are necessary to maintain alertness, memory, and circulation.  To combat this change, increase fiber intake and if necessary, talk to their doctor about the possibility of supplements.

Different medications and illnesses can impact your diet.  Some prescription medications can influence their appetite and can even affect your sense of taste.  On the other hand, a weakened sense of taste and smell is also a side effect of aging. This can commonly lead to your loved ones putting more salt and sugar on their food, which can have negative health side effects.  If you notice your loved ones suddenly increasing the amount of salt or sugar in their daily diet, ask their doctor about health conditions that could cause this change or if it’s based on medication, ask how you can work together to overcome the side effects.  You might want to try using more herbs, spices, and healthy oils to add more flavors to food without using more salt.

Finally, every year after 40, your metabolism slows. If your loved ones continue to eat the same amount as when they were younger, it’s likely that they’ll start gaining weight.   This means that they’ll will need to alter their caloric intake to adapt to this slower metabolism, especially if they’re not as active as they once were.  It’s important to keep an eye on your loved ones eating habits since a sudden decrease or increase in appetite can signal emotional problems such as loneliness and depression.  Schedule an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to discuss how many calories they should be eating each day.

As you can see, it’s vital to be an informed and active participant in your parents’ lives, especially concerning their diet.  For more tips on helping your aging loved ones, check back next week for our blog which will address what foods to focus on.