Geriatrics is the health term that describes older adults from 65 years and older. Another common term for this age range is senior. Seniors need good nutrition much like the rest of the age groups. This nutrition plays a key role in healthy aging (Blake, 2019, pp. 583). A balanced diet requires appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats (pp. 583). However, did you know that seniors require calories that are much less than a regular adult? Older adults need fewer calories and more nutrition, adequate fiber and fluid, and other specific micronutrients.
Seniors Life Expectancy Changes
In the 1900s, adults lived to be around fifty years old. The average life expectancy during the early 1900s was 47 years old (pp. 583). Another term that describes the seniors we know today is “baby-boomers.” This generation was born between 1946 and 1964. Moreover, the number of 65 years and older are expected to increase in population by 2050 at 15.6% (pp. 583). How is this possible?
Factors have contributed to the extension of a senior’s life. For example, advanced medical care, healthcare, and public health policy have improved their life (pp. 583). In the early 20th century, widespread diseases such as tuberculosis and polio have decreased since biomedicine was offered to vaccinate children (pp. 583). Not to mention, public campaigns had brought attention to healthy lifestyle habits such as managing high blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels played a major role (pp. 583). Living a long life became the new popularity and hip lifestyle. Thus, people have been living longer and well into their eighties.
Seniors Need Less Calories & More Nutrition
As we age, our bodies metabolic rate decreases. Metabolism is a complex process that helps regulate the chemical actions in our body. For instance, when our body breaks down food, our metabolism is the action that occurs. Lean muscle tissue and muscle mass slowly declines as we age. Also, we do not stay physically active.
Less calories certainly does not mean less nutrition. A 70-year-old moderately active man may need 400 calories less than his 40-year-old self (pp. 584). For example, protein intake tends to decline with age, because people eat less food (pp. 584). However, calorie needs may decrease, but vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients are emphasized in a senior’s diet. For example, foods rich in phytonutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain, have a powerful effect. These foods can combat certain diseases like heart disease, age-related degeneration, and even cataracts (pp. 584).
Seniors Need Fiber & Fluid
Fiber requirements are based on calorie needs. Therefore, we may not need as much grams of fiber the older we get. Fiber helps reduce the risk of diverticulosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, mellitus, obesity, and some cancers (pp. 584).
Fluid is similar to fiber intake. It helps prevent constipation and dehydration that may cause a lack of energy (pp. 585). Sometimes people in their 60s-80s may have a blunted taste for food. Drinking enough fluid can help combat the risk of dehydration. Not to mention, some seniors take diuretics. This helps prevent the body from holding excessive fluids. However, some side affects of taking diuretics includes frequent urination and even constipation. You will need to ask you doctor to know if you need to take these. Finally, which beverage is best for these later age groups? Enriched nutrients in fluids such as fortified milk is the best beverage to take. Water is the most important fluid to consume.
Eating to fulfill nutrient requirements is the best diet for anyone! There was an assessment was made for Americans 65 years of age and older on their daily diets. These men and women were asked if they adhered to diet recommendations for their age. The results included that they did not. On average, they consumed too much sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars (pp. 585). They lacked adequate servings of these food groups, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. There are many dieticians and food research scientists who study the science behind food consumption in comparison to an elderly adult. Websites like https://www.nlm.nih.gov/ is the National Library of Medicine for online archives accessible to anyone. Doctors and dieticians publish articles on anything biomedical, science related reasons and statistics for the interested online audience to further their knowledge. Always ask your doctor for advice and assessments to see if you are taking in adequate amounts of nutrient dense food for your age. Finally, the Natural Medicines website of editorials and evidence by doctors will show you the natural approach to health https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/. Seek knowledge while you can, it may help you live longer and healthier!
Author: Jamie Moore Sam Houston State University Pre-Nursing
Blake, J. S. (2019). Nutrition & You (5th Edition) (5th ed.). Pearson.