The onset of senescence brings about several non-communicable diseases, most of which are directly related to the shortage of certain nutrients in the ageing bodies. Several older people are at a risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, which can result in chronic diseases decreasing life expectancy or quality of living.
Up until now, there were several misconceptions about the nutrient requirements for the elderly citizens, mostly because health data required for nutrient estimation was not directly derived from the senile generation, but was extrapolated from the studies performed on younger people. However, recent studies have thrown new light on the nutritional requirements of the elderly. Scientific studies now aim to estimate not only the amount of nutrients required for preventing a deficiency, but also the nutrition necessary for preventing a chronic non-communicable disease or its symptoms.
The elderly usually have lower energy expenditure and slower metabolic rates, and therefore consume less amount of food than the younger generation. A healthy, balanced diet is therefore necessary in order to incorporate a variety of minerals, vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates. They should therefore try to integrate the following foods in their daily diet:
- It is vital to consume food rich with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Nutrients such as riboflavin and vitamin B6 are particularly important to fight diseases such as esophageal cancer, immune dysfunction, infectious diseases and other chronic disorders.
- Since the elderly prefer soft easy chewable foods such as bread, cereal and pasta, they should consume products made from whole grain, additionally enriched/fortified with vitamins and minerals, instead of refined flour, which does not contain adequate amounts of Vitamin B.
- Dairy products provide sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D, essential for maintaining strong bones. The elderly should prefer consuming low fat dairy products within the milk, butter, yogurt and cheese categories, since it is easier to digest and non-fattening.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a rich source of nutrients. Hence, they must be consumed four to five times a day. Fruits, which are hard to chew, can be consumed in a liquid shake form. Vegetables can be lightly sautéed, boiled or eaten raw as a salad. The elderly people should prefer dark colored fruits and vegetables, since they are rich in antioxidant nutrients and Vitamin B folate.
- Dietary fiber is an essential constituent present in beans, whole grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. It aids the process of digestion and prevents constipation. The elderly people should add fiber to their diet, but in moderate proportions in order to avoid problems such as bloating, gas and cramps.
- Foods that are rich in nutrients such as dried beans, nuts, eggs, fish, meat and poultry should be consumed as per the individual requirements. The method of preparation should be customized as per taste, preference and easy of chewing.
- The last but most important part of the daily nutritional requirements for the elderly is water in any fluid form. With age, the sensation of thirst decreases, so it is vital to take in fluids in the form of juice, shakes, green tea or plain water. This will keep the all body processes functioning properly.
Adequate, balanced, nutrient rich foods should therefore be the highest priority for the elderly citizens to ensure long, healthy, disease-free life.