Poor nutrition in older people is a major health concern. It is estimated that 30% of people aged 60 years or older, who live independently, are at risk of malnutrition. There are many reasons for this including chronic medical conditions, decreased appetite, lack of interest in cooking, chewing problems, loss of taste and smell, and loneliness.
Not eating enough not only means poor nutrition and undesirable weight loss, it can also lead to loss of muscle which can affects a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. Importantly, the weakness and frailty that come with muscle loss increases the risk of falling. People with poor nutrition also tend to become sick more often and take longer to recover.
• is important to optimise health, independence and quality of life
• improves wound healing
• helps to preserve bone mass, muscle mass and strength
• improves well being.
What is a ‘nutritious diet’?
Eating a variety of food is a good start as this means there is a greater chance of getting the protein, vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
Choose food from the following groups each day for variety and nutrition:
• Milk, yoghurt, cheese, custard and ice-cream
• Bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles
• Vegetables & fruits
• Meat, fish and other seafood, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes (e.g. chick peas, baked beans and butter beans)
• Fats and oils are also important. These foods provide energy (calories) as well as important fat soluble vitamins such as A and D and essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3.
Enough food needs to be eaten in order to get the nutrients the body needs and to prevent unnecessary muscle loss and weight loss. Choose foods that will be enjoyed and, don’t go hungry. Eating enough means being able to maintain a healthy weight and even having a little extra weight in reserve for times of illness or stress. Older people should not be on a low fat diet and when appetite is poor, the food that is eaten should be nutrient and protein rich and calorie-dense.
If you are not able to shop for and/or cook your own nutritious meals, Glasshouse Country Care can help. Our carers can assist you with shopping and meal preparation, or you can have delicious meals delivered directly to your home with our meals on wheels service.
Awareness of any nutrition-related health problems and timely intervention can be a big help in preventing the downward slide towards frailty that leads to loss of independence and reduced quality of life.