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Elderly diet

Older people is the term generally used to refer to people over the age of 65.

Energy requirements continue to fall with advancing age because people tend to be less active, but it is important that older people continue to enjoy their food and that they keep active in order to maintain a good appetite, to prevent obesity and to maintain mobility.
People may eat less as they get older for many reasons. Some elderly people have difficulty in chewing and in swallowing. People with arthritis, for example, have difficulty in shopping, in preparing and in cooking food. Other people may simply lose interest in food, for example if they live alone or are unwell, and others limit what they buy because they have financial problems. It is therefore not uncommon for intake of certain nutrients to be lower than recommended. Intake of some of the B vitamins and vitamin C may be low due to a reduction in the amount of fresh food eaten, and therefore consumption of fruit juice and canned fruits should be encouraged.

Osteoporosis is a major problem in elderly people, especially women. It occurs when bones have become so fragile that they fracture easily. It affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 12 men. The best way to prevent this condition is to build a strong skeleton during childhood by eating a good diet rich in calcium and being physically active. These habits should then be maintained as an adult. An adequate calcium intake during the later years is also important as it may help to reduce bone loss.
Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption, is mainly obtained from the action of sunlight on the skin. So people who are housebound or live in institutions may be at risk of deficiency. It is recommended that everyone over 65 years of age takes supplement of vitamin D, and dietary sources such as oily fish, cod liver oil and margarine should be eaten regularly.
It is also important that the intake of fluids is kept up in old age to avoid dehydration which may cause mental confusion.

The elderly food must involve a soft diet, that means tolerated and accepted food:
Useful because it must be subordinated to their digestive abilities and possible liver and pancreatic insufficiency;
accepted because it mustn’t engender nausea but must contemplate wide variation of the foods for each one.
Main requisite to prepare a diet is represented by the knowledge of proteinic and caloric needs that decrease with ageing.

Nicola Schiavone


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