There is a reason that restaurants are so happy to provide a seniors menu; seniors eat less and develop particular tastes. This transition is natural but the need for good, healthy, muscle and bone building foods is more important than ever. Muscle loss and Bone density decreases, as we get older and makes us more susceptible to falls. There are also a host of foods that guard and promote brain health. The percentage of seniors that will have some form of dementia in their 80’s is over 70 percent. Good brain health is crucial for living a full, enjoyable life.
If you are caring for a senior there are barriers to eating besides a natural decrease in appetite to keep in mind.
Difficulty chewing and swallowing
Dentures and teeth issues can limit the texture and types of foods seniors may enjoy. Seniors also may develop dysphagia, a condition that impairs the muscles of the mouth and throat making swallowing more difficult and the risk of choking much higher. If these are issues assuring that the foods they love are cut up in small bite size pieces, providing easy to eat proteins like eggs or smoothies with a good whey protein powder will help. Vegetables cooked longer and whole grains are also familiar and easy to eat.
Dry mouth is another natural reality of aging that can also be exacerbated by medications. A dry mouth can make bread, crackers, pasta and rice difficult for a senior to chew and swallow. Adding moisture to foods through gravies, butter or cream cheese on breads and providing a glass of water at the table to sip between bites are effective.
Upset Stomach and Digestion
As we age indigestion seems to be more common. Our stomachs are less happy to welcome the same variety of foods and flavours. The best way to ward off stomach issues is to keep a food journal to discover what types of foods is the indigestion culprit.
Vegetables such as onions and peppers, spices such as garlic or ginger, fatty foods, caffeine in coffee and alcohol can be a problem.
Declining sense of taste
As we age our sense of smell becomes less sharp and that decline causes foods to become less flavourful. So much of eating is about enjoying the taste that when it becomes blander we are less inclined to eat. Seniors also may reach for the saltshaker in the hopes of giving food more zip. Increasing the sodium in our diet is not a healthy option.
Adding more flavors through seasoning and sauces may make food more enjoyable.
The adage Eat to Live never becomes more real then when applied to the diet of a senior. Adequate calories intake and vitamins and minerals can and will ward off a host of medical issues.