According to WHO, individuals of 60 years and above, constitute the elderly. Aging is an irreversible biological change that occurs throughout an individual’s life, and continues until death. Old age is the last stage of life. If the early years have been fulfilling, the older adult arrives at this phase equipped to face the problems that this age poses. If on the other hand, there is no sense of completeness it shatters the old person. He feels unneeded and unwanted.

Biological changes in the aging process

According to NIN, ageing affects almost all the systems of the body, and is associated with several physiological, metabolic and psychological changes. The changes include decline in physical activity, digestion, metabolism, bone mass and muscle mass. Failing eye-sight and impaired hearing may also occur. Low appetite as a result of loss of taste and smell perception, dental problems, atrophic changes in GIT, constipation and decreased physical activity could lead to overall decrease of food intake and poor absorption of nutrients.

Inability to prepare food, economic dependency and other psycho-social problems adversely affects the health and nutritional status of the elderly. There is a decline in immune function with advancing age, which leads to decreased resistance to infectious diseases. The increased parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion in the elderly leads to increased bone turn over i.e. osteoporosis. Similarly, elderly individuals are at increased risk of osteomalacia i.e. defective bone mineralization due to lack of exposure to sunlight and poor diet.

As far as
nutritional problems are concerned, there may be dietary deficiencies or excesses, impaired digestion and absorption, inefficient distribution and utilization of nutrients and accumulation of waste products.

Dietary management

  • As people grow older, they tend to become physiologically less active and therefore need fewer calories to maintain their weights. The daily intake of oil should not exceed 20 g. Use of ghee, butter, vanaspati and coconut oil should be avoided.

  • They need foods rich in protein such as pulses, toned milk, egg-white etc.

  • Apart from cereals and pulses, they need daily at least 200-300 ml of milk and milk products and 400 g of vegetables and fruits to provide fibre, micro-nutrients and antioxidants. Inclusion of these items in the diet improves the quality of the diet and bowel function.

  • Flesh foods and eggs add to the quality of diet.

  • The diet needs to be well cooked, soft and less salty and spicy.

  • Small quantities of food should be consumed at more frequent intervals and adequate water should be consumed to avoid dehydration, hyponatraemia and constipation.

  • Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.

  • Match food intake with physical activity.

  • Eat food in many divided portions in a day.

  • Avoid fried, salty and spicy foods.

  • Consume adequate water to avoid dehydration.

  • Exercise regularly.

How can elderly remain fit and active?

Exercise is an integral part of maintaining healthy life. It helps to regulate body weight. The risk of degenerative diseases is considerably decreased by regular exercise. Exercise schedule should be decided in consultation with a physician.

Tips for good health

  • Avoid smoking, chewing of tobacco and tobacco products and consumption of alcohol.

  • Check regularly for blood sugar, lipids and blood pressure after the age of 30 years at least every 6 months.

  • Avoid self medication.

  • Adopt stress management techniques (Yoga and Meditation).

Here at NUTRIDIETS, we will help you to plan a customized diet that is suitable for your special needs in different phases of lifecycle taking into consideration your eating habits and lifestyle. It is because some stages in lifecycle like pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood nutrition, and elderly nutrition demand special dietary changes and nutritional requirements and following our diet plans, you will be eating healthy according to your needs.

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