Old age is that phase of life by the time a person has completed all their hardships, worked, made a family, proved themselves to the world and now they have time for their own selves and loved ones, this is the time when their bodies and health have to be with them so they can enjoy it to the fullest. They say “ What you sow so shall you reap” the same goes with your body. Whatever a person has given to their body be it healthy food, exercise, a regular routine or unhealthy food, laziness, binge eating etc the body will give you back in the similar way.
Successful aging is defined not by longevity alone but also by sufficient well being in multiple domains socially, physically and mentally. The three components of successful aging are avoiding disease, engagement with life and maintaining high physical and cognitive function. Old age is best defined as the age of retirement, that is, 60 years and above. Improvement in health care technology has resulted in increased life expectancy. The number of people in old age has increased.
Poor health is not an unavoidable consequence of aging. Studies show that healthy eating, physical activity, mental stimulation, active social engagement, moderate use of alcohol, maintaining a safe environment, social support, regular health care, and not using tobacco are important in maintaining good health and independence.
Aging is not a disease but a biological process. It is a normal process which begins at conception and ends only with death. Individuals are known to age at different rates. The changes associated with aging are partly influenced by genetics, race and gender. Heredity and good nutrition may slow the aging process so that the individual enjoys physical and mental vigor in his eighties. Goal of nutrition care should be to help the aged achieve a healthy, purposeful and independent living.
There are multiple changes in organ functions with aging that may influence nutrient requirements, such as in taste and smell the change occured is decreased taste buds and papillae on tongue; decrease in taste and olfactory nerve ending and the effect they face is loss of ability to detect salt and sweet, it decreases volatility causing poor food intake, decreased sensory stimulation that may impair metabolic processes. Then in salivary glands it decreases in salivary secretion causing a feeling of dry mouth, xerostomia leads to difficulty in chewing and swallowing which makes them avoid certain foods, particularly crunchy, dry and sticky foods.
Some of the dietary modifications that have to be followed by the elderly are like food that must be soft, easily chewable as there are problems of dentition, fallen teeth or dentures. Then foods should be easily digestible as they decrease the production of digestive enzymes. Restrict fat in the diet, inclusion of PUFA as it is susceptible to heart diseases. Foods rich in fibre should be given as it prevents constipation and reduces cholesterol level and also to prevent colon cancer. Coffee, tea and cola beverages should be restricted as it may result in insomnia due to overstimulation.
Foods rich in calcium like milk and curd should be given to compensate for bone loss and reduce the incidence of osteoporosis. Curd can aid in the balance of intestinal flora. Green leafy vegetables can be given literally as a source of nutrients like carotene,calcium,iron,riboflavin,folic acid and vitamin C,besides supplying fibre.Rich in antioxidants.Foods of the elderly should consist of familiar foods.New foods are difficult to accept as unfamiliar or changes in the food pattern may lead to psychological problems like depression.Clear soup at the beginning of meal as it aids digestion.Small and frequent meals instead of three heavy ones as it favour more complete digestion and free from distress.
A glass of warm milk just before going to bed as the Calcium along with Magnesium deactivates adrenaline and promate sleep.The warmth of milk acts as a relaxant.Heavy meal at noon and light in the night meal as the sleep is less likely to be disturbed.Too many sweets with lot of fats and sugar should be avoided because too much of sugar may cause fermentation,discomfort due to indigestion and cause tooth ache and may increase cholesterol level.May lead to obesity.Plenty of fluids as to prevent constipation and dehydration.The consumption of flex seeds i.e 40g/d to decrease the hot flushes in post menopausal women.
The general principles for planning a nutritious diet for the elderly are similar to those for younger adults. The most important guideline is to provide meals and snacks that are nutrient dense, visually appealing, tasteful and of the appropriate consistency. Four or five smaller meals are often more acceptable than three substantial ones.
This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Shrushti Mehta.
We thank her for her research and analysis and hope to see the awarenesses about health and nutrition being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.