“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”—Mark Twain.
Most of us know that days and months of the year are designated to commemorate certain people, things, or events. February, for instance, is Black History Month. This month, March, is Women’s History Month.
As with other months, March also has many other lessor known designations, everything from National Caffeine Awareness Month (I for one will be celebrating that one) to National Umbrella Month (apparently there is a month for everything).
One of the other designations for March is National Nutrition Month. We all know good nutrition is important, and we usually notice a difference in our lives and overall well-being if we’re eating well. We also know it isn’t always easy. This is particularly true for seniors.
For a variety of reasons, seniors are often vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies. They might have financial limitations that make it hard for them to get the food they need. Sometimes lack of transportation or physical limitations keeps them from getting to the store. Loneliness can be a contributing factor to poor nutrition as well. An elderly person may not cook as much or eat as well as she did when there was a spouse or children around. The physical changes and ailments that come with getting older only exacerbate the problem. With age, for example, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing some key nutrients.
If you are a senior who is worried about your diet, or you are having a hard time overcoming obstacles to eating well, please reach out to someone in your life, be it a friend, family member, or health care professional. Conversely, if you have an older loved in your life that you are worried about, try making it a priority to make sure they are eating as well as possible. Talk to them about. Check their cupboards and refrigerator if possible and appropriate.
There are countless resources and recommendations for nutrition and diet out there. (Your doctor is always a good place to start). Beyond that, some people have benefitted from the USDA’s ten healthy eating tips for people age 65+, which are summarized below.
1. Drink plenty of fluids in order to stay hydrated.
2. Make eating a social event.
3. Plan healthy meals.
4. Know how much to eat so you can control your portion size.
5. Vary your vegetables, by eating a variety of different colored vegetables.
6. Eat for your teeth and gums, in order to give them the nutrients they need.
7. Use herbs and spices to add a little flavor to your meals.
8. Keep food safe.
9. Read the Nutrition Facts label.
10. Ask your doctor about vitamins or supplements.
I have personally witnessed the power of an improved diet for an elderly loved one and have also heard from home health providers who attest to the same. Even the Alzheimer’s Association’s website notes that “for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms.”
Besides whatever else you might want to celebrate and remember this month (from women’s history to umbrellas) make sure you are getting the nutrition you need and help the seniors in your life do the same.