Dehydration in the Elderly – Prevention, Risks, And Symptoms
What is The Cost of In-Home Care For The Elderly?

A healthy diet is vital at any age, but during old age it is even more important to ensure the right balance of vitamins and minerals, to ensure overall health and wellbeing.

In addition, it’s important to get a good amount of gentle exercise, to ensure mobility remains free and easy. Of course, not all elderly people have the ability to move around with ease and in that case, certain exercises can be changed and adapted to their specific needs. 

Many people these days are unsure what actually constitutes a healthy diet, and in old age, there are certain vitamins and minerals which are a little more important than they have ever been before. 

Let’s check out those important vitamins before giving you the low down on the best diet for someone who is entering old age.

Important Vitamins For The Elderly 

A varied diet should include the following vitamins and minerals. 

  • Calcium – As age ticks on, calcium is lost and absorption rates are less. This can lead to broken bones occurring far more easily, due to osteoporosis. Calcium is a vitamin mineral for health in general, and over the age of 50, it’s important to have a 20% more intake of calcium than before. This means increasing the amount of dairy, via cheese, yogurt and milk. 
  • Vitamin B12 – This is a vitamin which helps with the quality of blood but also ensures the health of individual nerve cells. As you age, you may not be able to absorb as much vitamin B12, therefore extra dairy, eggs, fish and meat needs to be consumed.
  • Vitamin D – We’ve already covered calcium, but vitamin D is required to help the body absorb it whilst also boosting the immune system. Oily fish can be good for boosting  vitamin D but sunlight is also useful. 
  • Vitamin B6 – This particular vitamin helps to boost the immune system and fight off germs and infections. In the elderly, vitamin B6 can also help with memory function.
  • Magnesium – A good intake of nuts, leafy greens, and seeds is good for boosting magnesium which can help with bone health and to make protein within the body. Magnesium is also related to blood sugar regulation, but certain medications, many of which may be taken by the elderly can affect magnesium levels. Putting back what is lost is therefore important. 
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – To help starve off degenerative brain diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s omega 3 fatty acids are key. The body can’t make these itself, so it relies upon diet, with oily/fatty fish, flaxseed, canola oil and walnuts proving to be excellent sources. 
  • Zinc – This is another vitamin which is ideal for boosting the immune system and most people don’t get enough of it.
  • Selenium – To help protect your thyroid against disease, whilst ensuring the immune system stays strong, selenium is vital. There are also links between selenium and protection against dementia. Brazil nuts are a great source of this vitamin. 
  • Potassium – Bananas, spinach, yogurt and milk are great sources of potassium, which is important to help with the function of your vital organs. Potassium can also help to regulate blood pressure in some cases. 
  • Fiber – Everyone needs fiber, but during old age, it can help to add protection against severe problems such as stroke, controlling cholesterol and help with blood sugar. 
  • Iron – Vital for overall health and wellbeing at any age. 

Ensuring a good quality diet with these vitamins and minerals is vital for health and wellbeing, but particularly in old age as certain parts of the body start to absorb vitamins in a less effective way.

Whilst not the only concern during old age, protecting against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia is also important. This cannot be done solely through diet, but omega 3 fatty acids and a few other vitamins are also known to help reduce the risk of this occurring and to add protection. When used with regular brain exercises, the chances are reduced, which could be enough to ensure that these upsetting conditions don’t occur to your elderly loved one.

The Best Diet For an Elderly Person 

So, now we know the vitamins that an elderly person needs to consume on a regular basis, what does the best diet actually look like? It’s not easy to identify which foods and drinks actually contain these essential vitamins and minerals and food labels certainly don’t make it easy either. 

We hear ‘low fat’ or ‘low calorie’ and we assume that it’ good for us, but most of the time this simply means that something else has been added in, which takes the healthy element right out of the equation! 

An elderly person needs to eat a varied diet and all food groups need to come into the equation. This ensures that all the vitamins and minerals are provided, with the correct nutrition from each meal. This means a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy (not full fat), eggs, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish and poultry. 

Foods also need to be checked to ensure they are low in the bad fats, e.g. trans fats and saturated fats, whilst being low in sodium/salt and with no added sugar. 

Of course, when you read a paragraph like that it can seem like a mountain to climb, but it’s not that difficult. Let’s break it down. 

  • Ensure a regular intake of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Whilst fresh is best, if this isn’t possible, then canned or frozen is better than nothing
  • Dark greens, such a broccoli and leafy greens are vital
  • Protein is important, but make sure this includes beans, peas, and a good amount of oily fish, for those vital omega 3s
  • Whole grains are important also and these can be in the form of whole grain cereals, rice, pasta, bread or crackers and these should be consumed on a daily basis. Around 3oz is a good amount to aim for
  • Milk, yogurt and cheese are the best forms of dairy, but these should not be full fat; aim for fat free or low fat. Three servings per day is enough
  • When cooking, use fats which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, with oil preferred
  • Avoid products which say they have added sugar as an ingredient 
  • Avoid adding too much salt (sodium) to meals

That’s how simple it can be. Of course, you also need to ensure that a regular amount of gentle exercise works alongside a good quality, varied diet.

Low Impact, Gentle Exercise For The Elderly 

A healthy lifestyle hinges on a positive attitude, a healthy diet and indulging in regular, gentle exercise. This is the same for any age group, but it is even more important for the elderly. 

The type of exercise needs to be suited to the individual, so a chat with their doctor is vital in order to find the right type of gentle movement and exercise for the person themselves. Of course, they also need to enjoy the exercise they choose!

The best amount of exercise is around half an hour every day, but this doesn’t have to be done all at once. This can be split into segments of 10 minutes or even two sets of 15 minutes; it depends on the person, their mobility and what they prefer. Of course, it also depends upon the type of exercise they choose. 

Gentle walking is a good choice, but there are also yoga programmes for the elderly that can help to keep the body strong and supple. A chat with a doctor will give you some ideas, as the list really depends upon the person and their level of mobility. It’s important to start slowly and build up, increasing the amount of time spend exercises as they become stronger. 

Health And Wellbeing, No Matter What The Age 

We all need to focus on overall health and wellbeing no matter what the age, but as we become older, the need grows. 

The health requirements of an elderly person are slightly different to someone who is below the age of 50 or 60, but this also depends upon the individual and their specific needs too. For instance, if a person has certain food allergies or sensitivities, this needs to be taken into account when designing a food plan, or when deciding upon meals for that particular day. The same can be said for choosing the right type of exercise. 

At the end of the day, your elderly loved one is in control of their own health and wellbeing, but you can advise and perhaps encourage them to make healthier choices. By being aware of what constitutes health and wellbeing and being armed with the right information, you can ensure that this is communicated to them.

In order to encourage your loved one to eat a healthy diet, why not prepare meals you can enjoy together, helping you to get the right balance of vitamins and minerals too. You can also go out on a walk with your loved one, and do exercise together, helping to create memories whilst ensuring health and wellbeing too.