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Good Nutrition for Older Adults

As you age, your body demands that you make adjustments in your dietary habits to maintain optimal health. Nutritional experts at Tufts University have developed a Senior Food Guide Pyramid that emphasizes eating patterns that are necessary to good health for older adults.

An important feature in the Senior Pyramid is its base, which shows a row of eight glasses of water or other noncaffeinated liquids. As we grow older, the importance of keeping well hydrated cannot be overstated. The benefits of drinking eight glasses of water a day include increased energy, less difficulty chewing and swallowing, a better-regulated body temperature, and a reduced incidence of constipation, to mention a few.

The Senior Food Guide Pyramid also highlights the need for increased servings of foods from the Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese group, which assist in maintaining the health of your bones. A flag on top of the Senior Pyramid is an indicator of the increased need for calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12 as you age. While you can derive these nutrients from healthy choices when selecting food, you may need to take supplements to maintain adequate amounts of these vitamins and minerals. You should check with your health care provider to discuss the best way of maintaining proper levels of these nutrients.

  • Advancing age can pose challenges to maintaining good nutrition.
  • Some medications may cause nutrient imbalances in the body or may impact appetite.
  • The ability to taste or smell foods or to detect thirst may diminish as you age.
  • Dental problems may limit your ability to chew foods comfortably.
  • Reduced energy expenditure may reduce your appetite.
  • You may lose your ability to grocery shop or cook.
  • Illness may also threaten good dietary habits.

Additionally, living on a reduced or fixed income can make it difficult to afford healthy foods. Resources that can assist you in obtaining affordable food are available in most communities. Many communities also sponsor a meals-on-wheels program, through which they deliver affordable meals to seniors. The food stamp program is available to seniors within eligible incomes to assist with the expenses at the grocery store. Your state and local governments may provide other programs as well.

Finally, due to weakened immune systems and the decreased stomach acid that comes with the aging process, you are more prone to becoming seriously ill from food-borne illnesses. The recommendations for safe food handling and food preparation have changed in recent years due to more and better information about the ways that food-borne diseases spread.

For additional information on nutrition, read Mia Bremer’s brochure “What is Good Nutrition?”

Page Author: Trina Barno

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