Nutrition: Food for Healthy Living
- Eldercare Locator
800-677-1116 | www.eldercare.gov
Provides information on both a local and national level about existing programs that can help with many issues including congregate meal sites and other local senior nutrition programs.
- Meals on Wheals Association of America Local Program Locator
Find a Meals on Wheels Program in your community using this locator tool.
- USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center
301-504-5414 | fnic.nal.usda.gov
Contact the center to speak with a nutritionist, or access a wealth of information on the website including a host of downloadable brochures with nutrition information geared specifically towards older Americans.
Through all stages of life starting the day we are born, our body continuously changes. Because of this, the needs of our bodies are also constantly changing. One of the best ways to keep the body and mind in peak condition while these changes take place is to nourish it appropriately. The old saying “You Are What You Eat” is very, very true, and can mean the difference between health and sickness in a variety of ways.
Mal-nourishment is a common, but preventable condition among older Americans
An alarming number of older Americans are improperly nourished for a variety of reasons. This can take a heavy toll on an older person’s health and greatly affect quality of life. Of all of the conditions that lessen the ability to be healthy and live well, this is one of the most preventable, reversible and treatable conditions that exists today.
What Causes Mal-nourishment?
There are many causes for improper nourishment in the senior population. Causes range from loss of appetite due to stress, depression, chronic illness and dementia, to the sad state of not being able to pay for food, cook food, or even get to the store to purchase throwback jerseys food.
Many older Americans who live alone may not want to cook for themselves, and instead may consume processed foods that provide only empty calories which can cause a person to be both overweight and malnourished. This can compound health issues doubly – for chronic conditions such as diabetes which is affected by weight and by the lack of nutrients in the body, leaving the person weak.
As we age, energy levels and physical activity tend to wan, yet the nutritional needs remain the same, so it is important to get these nutrients in a manner that supports healthy weight maintenance.
What is the Solution?
There are a variety of solutions to combat this treatable problem affecting millions of seniors.
Mobility Issues – For the senior that has trouble getting to the store, there are a number of ways that adequate food may be supplied. For homebound seniors, most communities have a Meals on Wheels Program that delivers meals directly to the senior. These meals are typically provided at little or no cost, or for a small donation so that the senior may get the food needed.
There may also be volunteer programs in the area that offer errand services for eligible persons. Also contact the local grocery store to see if food can be delivered weekly.
Loss of Appetite Due to Health Issues – It can be hard to eat for people who are not hungry, have digestion problems or are nauseous. If it seems that the person cannot eat a regular sized meal, break up the amounts into smaller portions to be snacked upon throughout the day. Make sure that dental issues are addressed – it can be very difficult to eat with improper fitting dentures, or mouth pain due to problems with the teeth. If money is an issue, check with the Area Agency on Aging for available programs that assist with dental work for older Americans.
Loneliness and Depression – If you or a loved one is suffering from isolation, loss of a loved one, or some form of depression inhibiting the ability to eat, there is help available. The local Area Agency on Aging has resources available or is able to refer you to someone that can assist in providing counseling. They may be able to set up participation in a congregate meal program through the local senior center, allowing the affected person to get out and participate in life in a meaningful way.
Lack of Financial Resources – Senior centers and food banks have an ongoing awareness of the financial plight that many seniors endure and often offer referrals or additional resources for assistance with these issues in a confidential manner. Because health care and medications are expensive, this is a common problem, and there is no need to feel embarrassed to request information about programs created to combat these situations.
Eating healthy can add years, health and happiness to life, which is a win-win for the individual, friends and loved ones.