- Author: Janet Byron
Senior citizens may have trouble eating and accessing healthy foods due to physiological changes in their gastrointestinal systems, physical problems that limit the ability to shop for and prepare food, or limited incomes that prevent the purchase of adequate and nutritious meals, according to Mary Blackburn, the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Alameda County.Blackburn and her colleagues shared these observations in an article in the current issue of California Agriculture journal titled "Research is needed
to assess the unique nutrition and wellness needs of aging Californians."
“Poor appetite or lack of appetite may plague elders who live alone, are lonely or do not feel like cooking, while the lack of funds to buy food affects food accessibility, availability, quality and variety,” Blackburn wrote. “Low literacy may mean that some elders are unable to read or comprehend nutrition and wellness information. Poor vision can make it difficult to read nutrition labels and to control intakes of dietary sodium, sugar and fat, as well as avoid foods to which one is sensitive."
Blackburn cites nutrition recommendations for those over age 50, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They include:
- Achieve adequate nutrition within calorie needs from nutrient-dense foods, and limit saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol.
- Maintain body weight in a healthy range, and lose weight slowly.
- Participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activities daily to reduce the functional decline of aging.
- Keep fat consumption between 20 percent and 35 percent of total caloric intake.
- Choose fiber-rich carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Limit sugar, caloric sweeteners and starch to prevent dental problems.
- Use no more than 2,300 milligrams sodium (1 teaspoon table salt) per day, and eat potassium-rich fruits and vegetables to reach 4,700 milligrams per day total salt.
- Middle-aged and older, hypertensive and black adults should reduce salt intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.
- Limit daily alcoholic beverages to two for men and one for women.
- Do not consume alcohol if it can interact with medications, or when medical conditions prohibit its use.
- To prevent food-borne illness, do not eat unpasteurized, improperly cooked or uncooked foods.
Six articles in the October-December 2010 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal explore the impact of aging on a range of health, lifestyle and policy issues, including nutrition and wellness, memory, stress, quality of life, health literacy and caregiving needs. The entire special issue on aging, “The Golden State goes gray: What aging will mean for California,” can be viewed and downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, go to: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org/subscribe.cfm, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.