How Seniors Nutritional Needs Change As They Age

Our nutritional needs change as we age. As they become older, senior citizens, including those in assisted living homes, need more minerals, supplements, and vitamins compared to younger adults, as with their bodies naturally beginning to break down. Human beings are mortal, and they were created to age at some point, and there is nothing we can do to curb the aging process. However, we can avoid complications, disease risks, pains, and losing muscle mass by eating healthy.

Changing Of Body Needs as Seniors Age

As they grow older, senior citizens in assisted living in Anchorage AK slowly start realizing that their bodies are no longer capable of functioning well compared to when they were younger adults. Seniors may need less physical exertion, more sleep, and meals that are more nutritious but with fewer calories that would enable seniors to manage their health and chronic conditions.

Fewer Calories versus More Nutrients

One’s daily needs for calories typically depend on weight, height, activity level, muscle mass, among other factors. In regards to senior citizens, they need fewer calories to enable them to maintain their weight.  This is attributed to the fact that they exercise and move less and thus have less muscle carriage.

Older adults can’t continue eating the same number of calories as they used to eat when they were younger, as they are more susceptible to healthcare concerns.

However, it’s important to note that although seniors require fewer calories than younger adults, they need foods with higher nutritional value. That makes it essential for them to eat various kinds of whole foods, such as lean meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits. These are healthy staples that greatly help them in fighting against nutrient deficiencies without having to expand their waistlines. Some of the nutrients that older adults need in large quantities include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and protein. In other words, seniors need to eat whole foods that are rich in nutrients for them to remain strong and healthy.

The Relevance of More Protein for Seniors

Older adults lose muscle mass and strength as they continue to age. The amount of muscle mass lost by seniors ranges between 3-8% for each decade for those over 30 years. The loss of strength and muscle mass is commonly known as sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia majorly causes fractures, poor health, and general weaknesses among senior citizens. The condition can be prevented by a high intake of protein to strengthen the bones and increase muscle mass to supplement the weight lost through the aging effects.

Also, seniors need to combine resistance exercise with a protein-rich diet for effective control of sarcopenia.

Seniors Benefit More from Fiber

Elderly adults are more prone to constipation than when they were younger. This is a health problem facing senior citizens who are over 65, and the case is about two times more common among women than men. This can be best explained by the fact that seniors at this age have fewer movements, with most of them taking medications with constipation being the side effect.

It’s, therefore, essential to include a high amount of fiber in their diets for constipation relief. The fibers pass through the esophagus undigested, which helps them form stool promoting regular movements of the bowels.

Besides, eating food rich in fiber helps older adults prevent diverticular diseases. This is a condition where tiny pouches form along the large intestinal wall and become inflamed or infected. This condition is mainly prevalent among senior citizens.

Body Changes with Age

Various changes occur as we age. Some of the conditions that contribute to the diet-age relationship include perception, physiology, and general age. All these conditions have a significant influence on the performance of one’s body in general, which in turn leaves an impact on nutritional intake, eating, and general health status.

Perceptual Changes

The perceptual changes that occur later in life influence our nutrition. Such perceptual changes include taste, smell, and hearing.

Hearing loss may make it difficult for us to maintain proper nutrition. In restaurants and during social functions, it may become difficult for us to hold conversations with our eating partners, thus limiting our food experiences.

Taste is the primary determinant of how we perceive our foods. Seniors have the tendencies of diminishing taste. Generally, a decrease in taste buds leads to a reduction of sweet and salty tastes. This often makes the food taste more sour or bitter. This, in turn, makes people eat fewer vegetables and fruits.

Smells have a significant impact on the kind of food we choose. In older adults, loss of smell makes them dissatisfied with the food they eat. This, in turn, leads to poor meal selections.

Changes in Physiological Aspects

Physiological change is one of the key reasons why older adult changes their nutritional needs as they age.

  • Reduced energy- Energy expenditure generally reduces as we get older due to decreased physical activities and basal metabolic rate. This reduces the need for calories.
  • Decreased body functioning- As we age, our bodies start experiencing changes in nervous systems, redistribution of body compositions, and decrease in kidney function.

Overall Aging-Related Changes

Other than physiological and perceptual changes, there are other changes in our body, which may have significant impacts on our nutritional intakes. These changes may include;

Gastrointestinal changes

Constipation, gas, delayed stomach emptying, and chronic gastritis often makes senior citizens avoid vegetable and fruits alongside other nutritional foods.  In such a case, the food category they need to emphasize may get eliminated from the diet.

Dentition

The teeth arrangement, set, number, and condition can make the elderly change their diet. For instance, teeth loss or fitting of ill-fitting dentures may cause them to avoid sticky or hard foods. Besides, those with dental issues may avoid some vegetables or fruits, such as broccoli, carrots, and apples.

Summary

When aging comes, it not only affects the body and mind but our eating behaviors as well. It’s, therefore, essential to make regular checks on seniors nutritional needs to ensure that the diet they take is healthy and per their requirements.

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