This is the fifth post in Peconic Landing’s community educational series about retirement. View the other posts HERE.
Making smart food choices is important at any age, but for the aging population, accessing the proper nutrition can be harder than one might think.
“We should consider ourselves as machines in many ways, and we need the right fuel in order to function,” said Dr. Roger Landry, a preventive medicine physician who strives to help Americans age successfully. “Our bodies function best when we have a mix of healthy foods; vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with all things in moderation.”
Recent studies have shown that one out of four older Americans suffers from poor nutrition, according to the National Institute on Aging. There are numerous reasons as to why.
When caring for an aging loved one, it’s important to take stock of what’s in the refrigerator; not just once, but regularly to ensure that they are eating properly, said Diane Bianculli, nurse practitioner at Peconic Landing, a Lifecare retirement community in Greenport.
Do their diets consist of variety? Do they have a mix of fresh fruits and veggies, meats and healthy grains; or are you seeing the same few options each time you look? It’s also important to question whether they have a reliable means of getting goods to stock the shelves.
Aside from access, there are also a few other things to consider to keep them eating properly.
As people age, changes to the body can cause us to feel fuller sooner, contributing to a lack of appetite and potential malnutrition. But that lack of appetite might also be the side effect of a medication, which can also change how food tastes, she said.
Should you suspect a lack of appetite, consider adding snacks throughout the day to help you get more nutrients and calories. Snacks can be healthy—for example, raw vegetables with a low-fat dip or hummus, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, or a piece of fruit.
Taste buds also change as we age, Bianculli said. “ You need sharper flavors to really enjoy your food, so a little Mrs. Dash or some other type of seasoning without the salt can really add to your enjoyment of any meal.”
At Peconic Landing, nutrition experts are on hand to help in the menu-making process, giving loved ones a peace of mind knowing that members are eating appropriately and enjoying themselves while they do so. Each meal features low salt/ low fat options as well as options for those requiring a diabetic and gluten free diet, common issues when it comes to aging.
Dining experiences are often the most social times of the day. Members can join one another for a more casual experience in the café, or more formal soup-to-nuts mealtime in the dining rooms.
If caring for a loved one at home, consider utilizing meal services offered at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious organization. Not only will they be able to enjoy a free or low-cost meal – but they will also meet new friends, enjoy games and have company while they eat.
“Many people that do live alone really benefit from the companionship of these programs,” Bianculli said. Some of these services even offer transportation or at-home delivery, making it a safe and convenient meal option.
If leaving the house proves to be too much, companion care, such as that offered by Peconic Landing’s Home Health Services can provide grocery shopping, meal preparation and the opportunity to chat while enjoying a home cooked meal.
For more information about Lifecare or companion care services visit the Peconic Landing website.