Australia has a significant percentage of older adults in their population. According to a study Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2017, more than 1 in 7 people were aged 65 and above.
And with age comes significant changes in nutritional needs and requirements.
Here are a few things that will affect the nutrition of older adults.
Factors that Affect Nutrition and Health
Nutrition is one of the biggest determinants of health. These are two things that older adults struggle with the most.
Here are a few factors that affect nutrition.
1. Mental Health
Mental status is a big factor with older adults, as the state of mind can greatly affect appetite. Older adults with sound mental wellness have better nourishment than those without.
2. Taste and Smell
Taste and smell play a vital role in a person’s nourishment. According to Science World, smell accounts for 80% of our taste buds sense. This is important in older adults because taste relates to appetite, and appetite changes with age.
3. Financial State
Many older adults can suffer from low income when retired. With low income, older adults may have difficulty affording prepared meals. It can be a risk factor as it may determine the food they can and can’t afford.
What Causes Poor Nutritional Status in Many Older Adults
The average Australian statistically lacks a healthy diet. They love their discretionary foods with high salt, fat, and sugar content and low vitamin content.
The risk may not be obvious among younger adults, but older adults can be at higher risk.
Here are a few factors and reasons why older adults may struggle with poor nourishment.
1. Diminished Appetite
A reduced appetite is one of the biggest causes of malnutrition in older adults, and it may lead to loss of appetite in the long run. This can increase the risk of more serious health concerns.
2. Dental health
Everything else changes with age, including your teeth. The majority of older adult Australians struggle with dental problems making it difficult to eat food.
Being an older adult could mean less mobility due to muscles growing older and weaker. This results in a lower basal metabolic rate, which makes the breaking down of food difficult. This results in eating less, which explains weight loss with age.
4. Eating and Swallowing Problems
With age comes the natural wear and tear of muscles. The loss of muscle strength around the throat and mouth slows down the ability to swallow. This results in difficulty in swallowing certain hard food-based diet.
Tips on How to Maintain Good Nutrition for Seniors
Proper nutrition is difficult to achieve and even more difficult as you grow into an older adult.
Here are a few tips to maintain good nutritional status among older adults.
1. Timely healthy meals
As you start aging, it is important to pay attention to the foods you eat. The older you get, the more you need to base your diet on fruits and vegetables with high vitamin content and low fat. Food also needs to be regular and timely.
2. Regular physical exercise
The older you get, the more your body disagrees with physical activity. It is, however, vital to stay active even with old age. Regular brisk walking can be a good start.
3. Serve several small meals
Older adults have lower rates of metabolism. This means they can no longer handle heavy meals. Prepare meals in smaller servings to allow the body time to absorb the food and create a dietary pattern.
4. Make the meal as savoury as possible
Remember that with age comes significantly weakened taste buds. To make it easier for older adults to enjoy their food, it needs to taste and smell heavenly.
5. Make mealtime socially fun and enjoyable
Older adults are often prone to mental health issues such as depression due to social isolation. This will inevitably affect their appetite. Inviting their friends, family and making meal-time fun and social goes a very long way to preventing poor nutrition habits.
6. Make meals nutrient dense with extra calories
As older adults generally eat less, it can be difficult to achieve their body’s nutritional needs. It is important to make their meal as nutrient and vitamin-dense as possible. Include supplemental nutrition: rich foods with higher protein, vitamin, and calorie to volume ratio to ensure that you prevent the risk of malnutrition, even with low food intake.
It certainly is no small task to prevent poor nutrition and promote healthier nutrition. Older adults especially are prone to age-related medical conditions. If you’re providing the needs of older adults or taking care of aging seniors, look out for the factors to provide quality of life.
Check out Aged Care Weekly for more informative articles.