Health Eating for Seniors | June 17, 2015
A healthy diet has long been correlated with better health. As people age and bodies slow down, diet becomes increasingly important. Unfortunately, and for various reasons, proper nutrition often suffers as people age. Limited mobility, financial constraints, and even the death of a spouse (especially in the case of a wife’s death) can affect healthy eating for seniors.
At the risk of their health, senior men who live alone or serve as their wife’s caregiver often rely on the convenience of frozen and fast food. The minutes that convenience foods save in the kitchen often are swallowed up by the ill health effects of the extra calories, fat, and sodium they contain. They can exacerbate existing conditions and bring on new illnesses as we age. It is estimated that as many as a third of men over the age of 80 — more than 1 million people — face nutrition-related health concerns because of an inability to cook for themselves.
About 50 percent of men who live alone are at high risk nutritionally, according to a study published in the August 2004 Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly. Titled “Men Can Cook! Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Senior Men’s Cooking Group,” the study by the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, Ontario, focused on Evergreen Action Nutrition (EAN). EAN, a nutrition education program at a senior center in Guelph, aims to improve the nutritional status of seniors through food demonstrations and classes, including a men’s cooking group.
The group helped boost the participants’ confidence in the kitchen while promoting the benefits of healthful eating. At the same time, the men enjoyed the program’s social aspects. Program evaluations found that many of the men learned ways to replace fats and sodium in their diet with vegetables and fiber, and more than 90 percent of the men indicated that they planned to continue with the group.
Many senior cooking programs—and home-delivered meal programs—are provided through local senior centers, health care providers and Area Agencies on Aging. Some in-home senior care providers, such as Comfort Keepers®, offer meal preparation and grocery shopping as part of their services. The Eldercare Locator – 1-800-677-1116 – can help you locate a wide variety of senior care resources near you.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that older men and women eat a well-balanced diet filled with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean animal and plant-based proteins, low-fat dairy products and heart-healthy fats. The AND offers this specific advice: