The aging population

By 2041, seniors (Canadians aged 65 years or older) will make up 25% of our population - that's 1 in every 4 people.

Nutrition requirements

As we age we lose lean body mass (i.e., muscles) consequently, our calorie requirements decline. Yet our vitamin and mineral requirements remain the same, in fact sometimes they increase. That means the foods we eat must be energy dense - so every bite is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Eating toast and tea isn't enough, and can contribute to malnutrition.

Risk factors

Seniors who are most at risk for malnutrition include those who:

  • live alone
  • don't eat foods from all 4 food groups
  • are over 70 years
  • drink more than 6 cups tea or coffee daily
  • are house-bound
  • have a poor appetite
  • are on a budget
  • are on restrictive diets
  • have oral or dental problems
  • have medical conditions such as depression

Important vitamins and minerals

By concentrating on getting enough key vitamins and minerals, for which seniors often fall short, they can improve and maintain their health. Some examples include:

  • Vitamin B12 absorption lessens with age due to changes in the stomach. You can find vitamin B12 in meat, fish, eggs, and milk.
  • More vitamin D is needed as we age because our skin makes less, and sun exposure declines, especially in the winter. Vitamin D is found in sardines, salmon, herring, margarine and milk.
  • Calcium is needed to keep bones strong and prevent osteoporosis.
  • Zinc is a mineral that can keep the immune system working. It is found in oysters, turkey, lima beans, bran cereal, nuts, milk, and red meat.

Nutrient-rich food ideas

  • hot cereal
  • sweet potatoes mixed with regular potatoes
  • soups made with milk
  • grated cheese on vegetables
  • yogurt with fruit
  • eggs prepared any way
  • canned tuna added to pasta or salads

Activity is important

Being active can provide some protection against chronic illnesses such as osteoporosis, diabetes, joint problems, and heart disease. In fact, a US researcher improved muscle strength by 160% in the very frail seniors in nursing homes, by having them weight train for 8 weeks! (average age 90).

original article by Ingrid Verduyn, RDN 
with revisions by the MediResource Clinical Team