Nutrition plays an essential role in maintaining the health of seniors. Inadequate nutrition results from poor quality food choices and/or inadequate calories, both which can contribute to low energy, muscle loss, malnutrition, and obesity.
As we age, it’s common to have a reduced appetite. Your sense of taste and smell may also diminish which often leads to eating less. Although reducing caloric intake as your physical activity level declines is appropriate, you need be sure to get enough calories and nutrients to maintain healthy bones, muscles, and organs. Even if your daily calories match your activity level, calories from processed foods are lacking in nutrition and contribute to both obesity and malnutrition. You actually can be overweight and malnourished! So, limit foods that are high in processed sugars, saturated and trans fats, and salt. Instead, choose nutrient dense foods that will help you to stay energized and fit.
Even if you don’t feel thirsty, getting plenty of water to stay well hydrated is vital to maintaining healthy brain and organ function as well reducing the incidence of constipation. Be sure your fluid intake averages half your body weight in ounces.
Protein is a key nutrient for elderly adults to improve muscle health, help maintain energy balance, weight management, and cardiovascular function. A majority of seniors require more protein than when they were young. Although protein is important, be careful to not overeat protein which can contribute to kidney issues, gout, increased fat mass, and more. Talk to a licensed nutritionist or a doctor to know what’s best for you. Some high-quality protein options are:
- Legumes— beans, lentils, peas
- Lean animal protein—chicken, turkey, fish, limited beef
- Limited dairy (avoid if it causes GI issues)
- 100% Nut butter
For a healthy digestive system and to avoid constipation and other problems, include fiber-rich foods at every meal. Soluble fiber is especially important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Good sources of fiber include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Oats and oat bran
- Whole grains
Focus on filling your plate with vegetables, both raw and cooked. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals necessary for a well-functioning body. Frozen fruit and vegetables without any added sugars or preservatives are a great option if spoilage is an issue. When preparing vegetables avoid unhealthy ingredients such as vegetable/corn oil and excess salt.
We often think of fat as unhealthy but it’s important for cellular and brain health, energy, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Healthy fats include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olives/extra-virgin olive oil
Healthy eating is important throughout your entire life; don’t let age be an excuse to eat junk. Remember that food is fuel and supplying your body with the best nutrient-rich fuel helps you prevent or manage chronic health conditions. It can also help you feel stronger and energized, allowing you to enjoy the golden years of your life.
Many families today are discovering and preserving one of life’s greatest treasures…the stories in the hearts and minds of our parents and grandparents. In our digital age, more and more families are saving their cherished family memories in digital formats like hard drives and DVDs. They have recognized the value of recording these stories for themselves, their children, and generations to come.
The art of getting these stories has taken on many forms. Ancestry.com is a website where a loved story can be traced through genealogy. Memorable.com helps store a loved one’s physical memories of old film, photos, slides, and tape through digitization. StoryCorps is an independently funded 501(c)(3) organization. Its mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
In 1994, Spielberg funded a project to interview 50,000 Holocaust Survivors around the world. I worked on that project interviewing and recording the stories of those seniors. I was so emotionally moved by those stories that I started my company, Personal History Interviews, where we interview seniors one-on-one, and capture their unique memories.
When we encourage our aging loved ones to remember their past and talk about their memories and feelings, it validates the importance of their life’s experiences and strengthens family bonds. It reveals previously unknown facets of their character and past, helping us better understand who we are, where we are, and how we got here.
Through their own words, they are able to relive the accounts of their lives and experience a full range of emotion. These are not just the heroic stories of war or the building of a business empire. They are the real stories of struggle, failure, heartbreak, success, and love.
When you are ready to discover the treasures of your family, there are two major factors to consider when selecting a professional interviewer/videographer:
- They have the best equipment. Their cameras, microphones, and lighting are going to give you the highest quality results. Remember, these treasured memories are going to last for generations to come and they should be preserved in the best possible manner. This is no time for the do-it-yourselfer!
- They have the background and experience in working with and recording seniors. They have a plan with the best questions to ask to gain more insight into your loved one. Plus, having a non-family member in charge provides a blank page for stories to flow, which leads to capturing more memories that a family member may have not considered.
As we age, our memories not only seem more valuable, but more vivid. For many wistful seniors, the events of 60 years ago may be clearer than the day before. I encourage you to record these stories while loved ones are able and healthy enough to tell them.
Their stories are incredible!
Personal History Interviews
With the holidays, we all seem to get caught up in getting “just the perfect gift” for everyone on our list. Let’s not forget: even though giving material gifts can be very caring and thoughtful, sometimes the best gift of all is just being there for those that are not able to come visit us.
When I was growing up, one of my fondest memories was visiting “folks”, who couldn’t get out to call on us, with my parents. As a young boy, I remember making home-made gifts and presenting these with much approval to those we were visiting. I certainly felt loved on these visits and looking back, I am quite certain that our visit just might have made the real positive difference in those individuals’ holiday. I have tried to carry on that tradition with children and grandchildren: visiting those who are unable to leave their home to visit with others.
An AARP study reports that 20-25% of all individuals over the age of 75 have some degree of limited activity that prevents them from freely visiting with others, outside of their home. In addition, seniors suffer a higher rate of depression during the holidays, many times due to lack of interaction with others. For seniors, unable to leave their home, a visit from friends, neighbors and family most likely will rank high on their “wish list” this year.
You never know what a blessing of goodwill you can be to someone else this holiday season. So be sure to add to your gift list “the gift of being there” this holiday season. One thing you can be sure of, your gift of visiting others will keep on giving for a very long time to come!
Happy Holidays and Happy Visiting!
Enjoying the warm summer temperatures doesn’t have to be a distant memory for elders. Finding an interesting activity that is suitable for a senior’s abilities may take some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.
The Benefits of Getting Outside
A main advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles. Getting out also enables elders to socialize with new people, and be stimulated by new experiences and environments.
Ideas for Outdoor Activities
When selecting activities to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy. What is something they always wanted to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to revisit. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.
Catch a sporting event. Attending a grandchild’s soccer game or a professional baseball game can be an action-packed way for your loved one to reconnect with a favorite pastime.
Fish for fun. You can cast a rod from a dock, pier, or other location, even if someone has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair. Check your state’s or province’s tourism websites to see if they provide listings of accessible fishing locations.
Be a tourist. If you live in a city, take an open-air bus or trolley tour to see the local sights. Another option could be a boat tour, depending on what type of equipment an elder needs to take with them. A Sunday drive around town can also allow a senior to check out happenings in the community that interest them. This could be a neighborhood rummage sale, farmers market, community event or even just blooming flowers and trees.
Take a dip. If a senior is willing and able, spending some time in a pool is an excellent way for them to incorporate some physical activity into their routine that seems more like relaxing than a workout.
Stroll around. If a walk is possible, start slow and work up to longer outings. Either keep the first few walks short, or bring along a walker or wheelchair in case your loved one gets tired and needs to rest along the way or requires help getting back.
Be an animal lover. This could be as simple as encouraging a loved one to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds, or could mean an outing to the zoo or local dog park. There are plenty of options for seniors who enjoy animals to get outside and either interact with or observe nature.
Picnic outdoors. Picnics are another flexible activity that you can plan at a park, in your own backyard, or on the surrounding grounds of a long-term care facility. At the park, seniors can watch children run around and enjoy the buzz of outdoor activity. Make sure to locate an area with comfortable seating and plenty of shade in advance, or remember to bring your own.
Go out for a treat. Most seniors have a favorite place to eat that picks their spirits right up. Instead of limiting this indulgence to special occasions or the post-doctor’s appointment routine, make an outing out of it “just because.” This could consist of a coffee and pastry from a favorite breakfast spot, or a lunch special from the diner around the corner. If the weather is nice, enjoy your goodies at a patio table.
Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes or perceive thirst as well as younger ones. With each of these activities, be sure to watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, sunburn, and overheating that could signal it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time.
By Caren Parnes
Contributor for The Senior’s Choice