Whether you are a caregiver to a senior citizen or you are living your golden years yourself, you need to be aware of the changing nutritional needs of our bodies as we age.
While we may need fewer calories, we need better, more nutrient dense foods. We still need the same amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. In special circumstances, we may need more. The skin doesn’t process sunlight as well as it did in past years to provide us with adequate vitamin D. Since vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, when our vitamin D levels are low, we will also be low on calcium. Calcium is then leached from the bones to provide us with the calcium that we need for other functions and bones become brittle. Neuromuscular dysfunction can also set in and falls can be eminent. Falls cause 11,000 deaths per year. It is possible that senior citizens may need vitamin D supplementation. (1) See your M.D. to determine if supplementation is necessary. Fatty fish, vitamin D fortified foods such as milk, some orange juice and some cereals, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks are dietary sources of this necessary vitamin.
Vitamin B-12 is supplied by the process of the stomach acid breaking B-12 down in our stomachs. After age 50, the stomach acid may be decreased and we may be deficient in B-12. B-12 helps keep our nerve and blood cells healthy and helps to synthesize DNA. It helps prevent megaloblastic anemia that causes exhaustion. Supplementation may be necessary. Your physician can make this determination. Good food sources are clams, beef liver, fortified yeast, wild rainbow trout and cooked sockeye salmon and fortified cereals. Synthetic supplemental vitamin B-12 and foods fortified with synthetic vitamin B-12 contain B-12 in a free form that doesn’t have to be broken down in the stomach like the B-12 in foods.
I am a heavy weight trainer. My first objective is strength and health and then I go after the look. I have discovered that I have to make every calorie count. There is no room in my diet for empty calories. I need a lot of protein and a significant number of calories each day. I limit my carbohydrates but absolutely do not advocate keto. In order to get the total package of strength, health and a lean, muscular physique, I have to seek out nutrient dense foods. Although I eat significant calories, I do control my calories. I count every single one. I “spend” those calories wisely, packing as much protein and fiber into each meal as I possibly can. The result is that I’m rarely hungry and in less than two years I have more than quadrupled my deadlift. As we age there is less wiggle room in our diet. If we are serious about fitness, we must eat like it. Decide what kind of life you want and make it happen. Most of your future will be decided by how you eat. If you remain strong, healthy and vital there is no limit to what you can do. If your health fails due to poor nutrition, your life will be centered around sickness and your activities will be limited.
Most adults over 50 need a little extra fiber to maintain bowel health. Fiber also helps prevent Type 2 diabetes and lowers your risk for heart disease. Whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, peas and fruits and veggies can supply all of your fiber needs.
Avoid transfats and eat saturated fat sparingly to help avoid heart disease. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fatty fish are your best choices for healthy fats. There is evidence that fatty fish will improve brain health which can possibly combat the onset of various brain disorders that are more common in senior citizens.
Carbohydrates are an excellent fuel source for our brain as long as they are complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates tend to have a negative effect on our brains. High intake of simple carbohydrates have been linked to mental decline in seniors.
Along with a healthy diet, exercise is critical for maintaining a healthy mind and body as we age. Consult your M.D. for a program that is suited to your needs. A good exercise regimen coupled with a healthy diet can extend your years and give you quality of life in those years. The decision is yours to make. Do you want to become dependent on others or do you want to remain independent and able to enjoy life to it’s fullest? Sometimes it takes a lifetime to work into doing the things that we’ve always wanted to do. At 62 I went ziplining for the first time. I had wanted to do that for years. Since I eat David’s Way and work out, it was a wonderful experience to finally create that moment in time to fly through the air, jumping off of a tower 200 feet into thin air.
Get healthy and truly live until you die. Make a bucket list and start checking things off. Fun is waiting.