The definition of elders in this article is people who are more than 60 years old. In present, these people are retirements. However, in nearly future, elders with good physical and mental health, good cognitive function and active decision making are gradually increasing; therefore, definition of elders may subject to change to people who are more than 65 years old. In general, our body has begun to deteriorate since 30 years onwards. A good health care and hygiene may reduce possible risks of illness or health problems in elders.
There are many obvious changes in elders both physical and mental. Their physical has been gradually deteriorated by age. Their mental has also been easy fluctuating, irritable and anxious from illness or deterioration of their systematic organs.
An important of selected diets for elders
Although elders need lesser diet consumption than young age people, they do require appropriate nutrients to repair their impaired organs and strengthen immune system. Diets are important for every individual. People with good diets, healthy, good quality of life and low stress are getting old harder because their physical has changing slower. On the other hand, people with poor diets, alcoholism, overweight or underweight are implied that their physical will be early degenerated and getting old easier.
The keys of diet or nutrition for elders are to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups in the amounts recommend, balance food consumption and maintain body weight. For an overweight elder, it is highly recommended to reduce weight closer to the reference range because a carrying of high body weight may trouble older body.
Elders usually experience problem of dietary deficiency because their physical, social and economy conditions has been changed. For example, an underlying disease may cause a difficulty for buying or cooking food. A home alone lifestyle or lack of social participation may cause to neglect of quality consumption. A reduction of income or retirement may cause to limit spending. Some elders may addict to alcohol because the change of their social lifestyle or mental problem. High alcohol intake may influence human body turns energy from alcohol instead and cause to loss of appetite and deficiency of essential nutrition such as vitamin B, folic, etc. Moreover, a chronic disease in elders may cause a loss of appetite or need more nutrition than ordinary people. It is no doubt that why elders are easier at risk of dietary deficiency than other age.
You may obviously notice the signs of inadequate nutrient in elders from weight loss, sunken cheeks, smaller muscles of temple, sunken eyes, muscle atrophy, etc. Some older persons may feel worry when experience weight loss; however, unintentional weight loss is a common condition among older adults but it should not decrease over than 5% of total body weight within 6 months. The causes of unintentional weight loss are loosing of muscles mass, thinner bones, reduction of water in body and others. If your weight is 60 kilograms and loose to 56 kilograms within 6 months, please consult your physician.
It is recommended to eat an egg and to drink a glass of milk every day. Try to avoid protein from meat because they usually contain fat.
Some kind of food such as meats, milk, eggs, and nuts usually contain high “protein”. Older adults require adequate protein for fixing their impaired organs. The recommended quantity of protein consumption is about 1 gram per a kilogram body weight.
Fish is a source of protein that suitable for older adults. It contains high quality protein, easy to digest and low fat. Beware of fish bone when eating. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in fishes that are useful for preventing vascular and heart diseases. Moreover, fishes are also a good source of mineral that is important for elders.
Senior people are recommended to drink at least a glass of milk every day because milk contains protein and calcium. However, anyone who is irritated by milk may drink soy milk instead.
Nuts are the best source of plant-based proteins for repairing impaired organs and producing crucial cell tissues for human life. Although elders stop growing but their physical still continually produces new tissues to replace decayed ones. Elders need this kind of food more than young people, comparing from weight ratio. Nuts namely peanut, soybean, green bean are a source of inexpensive protein and useful as same as meat. Fiber from nuts also useful for excretory system and reduce risk of constipation.
Soybean, sunflower or corn oils are healthy cooking oils because they contain linoleic acid that is essential fatty acid for health. Linoleic acid is useful for controlling blood lipid as well as reducing risks of arteriosclerosis and ischaemic heart disease.
Fat commonly contains in food from animals and plants. Fat is a group of food that provides highest energy. However, an overconsumption of fat may affect to gaining weight and increasing risk of atherosclerosis.
Avoid using coconut oil for cooking.
Avoid consuming fat from animal products such as chicken skin, pork rinds, yolk because they contain excessive fat. An overconsumption of them may result in adverse effects; for example, arteriosclerosis and malfunction of blood circulation in critical organs such as brain and heart.
Carbohydrate (Starches and Sugars)
Elders shall reduce consumption of rice or consume a proper portion such as 2 scoops per meal. Try to avoid high sugar products, strongly sweet taste food and desserts. A kind of food such as rice, starches, sugar, taro, potato contains “carbohydrate” that provides high energy but an overconsumption of carbohydrate will promote body fat accumulation. It is recommended to consume carbohydrate in a form of grain such as brown rice, sticky rice, wheat, corn, or starch products like bread, Chinese egg noodle, noodle because they contain high fiber that is useful for older adults.
If elder love to eat brown rice, it should be well cooked until it is soft enough. Despite of providing high energy, vitamin in brown rice also prevents numbness.
Elders should reduce eating starches or carbohydrate such as rice, noodle, taro, cassava because their muscles related activity decrease. They should eat this kind of food at a proper portion to prevent a body fat accumulation that may result to risk of atherosclerosis, obesity, knee osteoarthritis.
Mineral and Vitamin
Essential minerals that are likely deficient in aging adults include calcium and zinc. Calcium is essential to bone health. It is classically associated with dairy products; such as milk, tofu, vegetables, fruits, sesame, and animal bone such as fried crispy fish or canned fish. Aging adults are recommended to drink low fat milk to avoid nonessential fat. Zinc is also an essential nutrient to human health especially skin. It usually found in sea foods, fishes, etc.
Minerals that play an important role in elders are calcium, phosphorus and iron. The recommended daily calcium intake for aging adults is 1,000 – 1,500 milligrams/ day. Postmenopausal women usually turn decrease calcium absorption and increase bone resorption. Insufficiency of calcium leads to osteoporosis and risk of bone fracture from minor accident or fall.
An inadequate supply of mineral iron is likely found in elderly people. Without enough iron, it may lead to iron deficiency anemia and may leave elders tried, autoimmune disorder, getting cold more often, weakness, etc. Foods such as meat, milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits and whole-grains contain diverse volume of iron.
There are many kinds of vitamins but common vitamins deficiencies among aging adults that usually limit their activities in their home area include vitamin B1, vitamin E, vitamin D and folic acid.
A Vitamin is an organic molecule which is an essential micronutrient that an organism needs for the proper functioning of its metabolism. It contributes to energy production in your body, balance organ functions, increase body immune and produce essential biochemical for survival. Each vitamin has particular function and the recommended amount of each vitamin is also different.
Elderly are at increased risk of vitamin deficiency. For example, a lack of vitamin B1 commonly leads to beriberi, numbness of hands and feet. The main causes of vitamin deficiencies include a poor diet. A repeated binge eating may decrease an opportunity of some vitamins taken. Vitamins are usually found in vegetables and fruits. Elderly should consume a variety of easy to eat vegetables and fruits in every meal. Despise of vitamin, vegetables and fruits also have high fiber that is useful for excretion and reduce risk of constipation in elderly.
Elders shall consume foods that contain high fiber to prevent constipation, lower blood cholesterol and decrease possible risks of colon cancer.
Fiber is a non-nutrient and contains no calories, meaning it does not provide energy. However, you are supposed to eat lots of fiber everyday because it is useful for excretion. Elders usually experience constipation problem. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool, absorbs water, softens your stool, promotes the wave-like contractions that move food through the intestine and eases your bowel movements; therefore, adequate fiber intake seems to be important in the elderly. Barrier to the consumption of vegetables and fruits among older adults is a difficulty of chewing hard raw vegetables or fruits. In consequence, it is recommend preparing softer or easier chewing vegetables and fruits for elders for encouraging their fiber intakes.
Vegetables and Fruits
Example of green vegetables includes morning glory, Chinese cabbage, collards, Chinese mustard, etc. Example of fruit vegetables includes cucumber, bitter cucumber, pumpkin, carrot, etc. They contain high vitamin and mineral. Older adults can eat these vegetables with no limit but variety and variation.
Stream or boiled vegetables are recommended. Try to avoid raw vegetables because they may indigestible and may cause flatulence.
Many of Thai local vegetables have benefit to health as same as herbs.
Elders can consume all kinds of fruits. It is recommended to eat fruits every day because they provide “vitamin” that is useful for maintain health functions. The softer fruits are suitable for older adults such as papaya, banana, tangerine, etc.
Diabetes and obesity patients shall avoid high sugar fruits such as durian, longan, jack fruit, custard apple.
Older adults shall drink water about 1 liter throughout the day. However, the volume of water intake depends on physical needs that may observe from color of urine. Pale-yellow urine means your physical intake adequate water.
Plain water is a kind of drink that contains no calories but is important to the mechanics of the human. Your body uses water to transport of nutrients into the cells. Water gives you a radiant skin and refreshment. Seniors should drink clean and pure water. Kidney function declines with age in almost everyone. Drinking plenty water makes you have enough water flowing through your kidneys to carry out wastes easier. Older adults should drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water per day.
Some elders may experience constipation or insomnia after drinking tea or coffee; therefore, theirs relatives should observe an effect from drinking tea or coffee to prevent that problem.
A carbonated beverage may irritable bowel syndrome symptoms of bloating and gas then it is recommended to avoid drinking it. For the people who have no effect shall also limit drinking because it contains high sugar that may lower their appetite or affect to weight increase if drinking in high volume very day.
An alcoholic beverage such as alcohol, beer, whisky, etc. may damage livers. The people who drink excessive alcohol usually have risks of cirrhosis and insufficiency of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. However, an appropriate alcohol drinking will also stimulate appetite.
Changes of physical health (Digestive and metabolism system); changes of living condition (Economic recession); changes of daily activities or changes of social activities, may make elderly depressed and loss of appetite. A sensation of taste may also be decreased. Therefore, elderly should consume a variety of nutritious foods and well-balanced diets, not much or less.
Malnutrition or nutritional deficiency can contribute to many diseases of disorders in the elderly. The causes of malnutrition include poor diet, lack of money for buying food, loss of appetite, malfunction of digestive and absorption system, and emotional disturbance such as lonely, anxiety, etc.
Signs of Nutrition Problems in Older Adults
The signs include underweight because gastrointestinal distress and ineffective of digestive system, insufficiency of vitamins and minerals. Older adults are usually at high risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency.
A lack of adequate foods or poor diet is also directly related with vitamin and mineral deficiency as well as inadequate protein intake for health.
A possibility of vitamins deficiency in elders is high. Mild vitamin C deficiency is very common among seniors because most of them have lower vegetables and fruits consumption. Iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron. Another common disease among seniors is osteoporosis caused from insufficiency of calcium, protein, vitamin D and vitamin C.
Nutrition management for elderly is important. It should be appropriate and balanced to individual physical health.
Moreover, older adults should maintain their good physical and happily mental health by having appropriate and regular exercise, getting adequate sleep, entering annual checkup program, joining social activities with family and friends, and taking up relaxed hobbies.