The life expectancy in the United Kingdom has doubled over the last 2 centuries and now, close to 16 percent of the population is aged over 65 years. Within people in the older age group, and even greater population growth is seen among people aged 85 years and above.
Unfortunately, the extra years added to people’s lifespans are not necessarily ‘healthy’, and this has a negative effect on older people’s quality of life.
As people age, physical changes to their bodies happen that can affect how they feel and think about food. Such changes can prevent them from accessing a healthy diet and can make them believe that they are less hungry, which results in them eating less.
Proper nutrition and regular physical activity play a protective role in several age-related conditions, which include cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease and can help protect dental and oral health as well as joint and bone health in later life.
Dispelled here by personnel in live in care jobs, are the top 10 myths about ageing and eating a healthy diet.
One common misconception about ageing is that the stomach reduces in size as people age, which means that older people need to eat less. While appetite and capacity to eat may change, the size of the stomach does not reduce.
People mistakenly assume that as older people’s energy requirements reduce, they have to reduce their intake of food. People’s metabolism may slow down once they age, but eating good food protects and fuels the body, which is critical to ageing well.
Throughout life, people believe that weight loss is healthy, but this is not the case when people grow older. Instead, unintentional weight loss and dieting should be avoided in later years unless advised by a dietician or GP.
The process of ageing may affect the usual triggers that inform the body whether it is hungry or full. Appetite loss is not normal and could be indicative of an underlying health issue.
Contrary to popular opinion, a low-fat diet is not always ideal, particularly for older people. Some fats are actually an important source of calories and some older individuals might be required to eat more to maintain a healthy weight.
Vegetables rich in nutrients are essential in any diet, but should be consumed a part of a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, and fluids. Protein is very important as people age since it protects the brain, body organs, immune system, and muscles.
If a person feels thirsty, chances are it is the body saying that it is low on hydration. Dehydration may cause confusion and affects normal kidney function.
The human body cannot live exclusively off of vitamins and supplements. Some supplements may interact with medication and some actually don’t work as they claim to. Meal supplements also eliminate the opportunity for enjoying food with other people, friends, and family.
Ensuring that one eats regularly is critical to staying healthy and well, but eating 3 satisfying meals each day can be a struggle if one’s appetite is affected. If 3 good-sized meals prove too much of a challenge, it can be a good idea to eat 5 or 6 well-proportioned snacks or smaller meals.
Malnutrition can affect anybody at any age and is not a normal part of the process of ageing. Malnutrition may occur in bodies of different sizes, small or large, but older individuals are particularly at risk. It is important not to ignore the warning signs of malnutrition as being par for the course.
With so many things to think about, it is hardly surprising that older people living alone usually find it hard to ensure that their diets stay healthy.