2013 Blog

Nutrition for Older Persons
04 March 2013
Older people undergo many physiological changes accompanied by a reduction in the functionality of some organs and the number of cells.
Causes of Malnutrition:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eating slowly
  • Eating a small amount of food at a meal
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties
  • Loss of sense of taste and smell
  • Depression and other similar factors
  • Hearing and vision impairment
Caring for Older persons:
Older persons in your family, whether that means a grandfather, grandmother, father, mother or any older person, need a special kind of nutrition to compensate for age-related changes.
Changes That Occur with Aging:
Aging causes several physiological changes, such as a decrease in the amount of muscle tissues, losing about 5% of the muscle mass, and an increase in the adipose tissues. That is in addition to a reduction of intestinal glands secretions, low hormones levels, teeth loss, low milk intake, vitamin D deficiency and lack of sunlight exposure.
Constipation is also one of the chronic issues in aging due to low fluids and fibers intake, reduction in the digestive system contractions, in addition to colon problems.
In addition, zinc deficiency is one of the main aging symptoms that is associated with loss of appetite, loss of taste, delayed wound healing, atherosclerosis, dementia and cancer.
As people grow older, the body is less able to secrete gastric acid, which helps break down food to release vitamins for absorption. This may cause the following:
  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Anorexia
  • Sore Tongue
  • Paleness
  • Spinal Cord Deterioration
  • Bone Marrow Changes
Nutritional Needs:
The variation in behavior and dietary pattern among individuals during their childhood causes nutritional problems as they get older. Chronic diseases and medications may interfere with the body's ability to absorb nutrients.
Dietary habits, general health status and mental health status must be taken into account when determining nutritional needs.
Recommended energy intakes of elderly people:
Gender Age ​
Recommended Energy Intake
Male​ ​ ​60 - 75 years ​2000 – 2800 calories
​More than 75 years ​1950 – 2450 calories
Female ​60 - 75 years ​1400 – 2200 calories
​More than 75 years ​1200 – 2000 calories
Carbohydrate needs are determined by calorie requirements (50 -60%) and physical activity, where complex carbohydrates are preferred in order to prevent constipation.
Some old persons tend eat a lot of carbohydrates and less proteins, eating a lot of biscuits, sweets and cakes. Such meals lead to suffering from low protein level, anemia and constipation.
It’s recommended to eat high-protein foods, where not everything that is eaten is digested and absorbed. The amount of protein required in an older person's diet is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, either from animals or vegetables like lentils and beans.
Mineral Salts:
The recommended amount of calcium for older persons equals the amount of daily calcium requirement for middle-aged people. However, people need to consume more iron as they grow older, taking up to 10 milligrams per day. Iron helps in preventing anemia and weakness, where it’s recommended to eat foods rich in iron. On the other hand, the amount of salt intake should be controlled and replaced with other types of spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin and onion to reduce the incidence of hypertension.
After menopause, women's need for calcium increases, where the body's ability to keep calcium in the bones gets reduced due to hormonal disorders, leading to fragile bones that break easily.
Poor dietary intake of potassium leads to muscle weakness, drowsiness and constipation, and eventually loss of appetite. Nuts are rich in beneficial minerals, where it’s recommended to eat 6 pieces of unsalted assorted nuts per day, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and hazelnuts. If the elderly person has no teeth, ground nuts can be served to him/her with honey.
Drinking 6 - 8 glasses of water per day is necessary for older persons, preferably in the morning, to help the body get rid of waste.
Older persons are advised to eat high-fiber foods due to its ability to absorb water and encouraging the speedy elimination of stool.
General Tips for Better Digestion:
  • Eat more than three meals a day
  • Eat at regular times
  • Slow down your eating rate
  • Relax after every meals
  • Avoid large meals
  • Avoid anxiety and anger; it can lead to poor digestion
  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink sufficient amounts of water and other drinks
  • Exercise regularly
Prepared by:
Haifa Baker Al-Baker - Dietitian
Last Update : 09 March 2013 04:18 PM
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