Photo from Roseville School
There is some startling news about the elderly and their nutritional status. Senior nutrition is closely tied to other factors such as loneliness, social isolation and health. An older person who does not eat well is more likely to be alone and in poor health.
It is estimated that 50% of older adults are malnourished. Many factors play into this:
- Loss of taste. Common in the elderly. Many complain that food doesn’t taste good.
- Eating alone. Most are less likely to eat if they have to eat alone.
- Inability to prepare nutritious meals. This is due to a number of things: Poor vision, weakness, and depression, to name a few.
- Inability to travel to the grocery store. Some can’t make the trip without help.
- Difficulty preparing special meals that are necessary when one has a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.
One way to deal with malnourished seniors is to provide community meal sites. These are locations where the elderly can go to eat with others in a group setting. Most communities have a senior center that can be designated as a meal site. Some churches offer the same benefit.
Elderly who eat at community sites tend to eat better. They have the opportunity to socialize as well. Having a meal with another person or group makes the experience a positive one and leads to better eating. In one survey, more than 50% of the elderly said that meal programs provided more than half of their food intake for the day.
Even more significant is the impact that eating with others has on health. Elderly who eat with others have fewer hospitalizations. This fact has not been lost on the government, who funds two main sources of meals for the elderly. One is the Congregate Meal Program, which provides support for group meal settings. The other is the Home Delivery Meal Program, better known as Meals on Wheels, for the elderly who cannot travel to a group site. Meals on Wheels not only provides the meal but the meal delivery person who also stays to visit awhile.
Medicare proposes a new benefit category that will allow the Medicare Advantage plans to offer nutrition services. This program is yet to be defined but will probably be closely aligned with the other meal programs offered. It may include individualized nutrition education.
At the very least, any new program should identify at risk elderly who may be suffering from malnutrition. It is painful to think about those who do not have access to programs that help maintain good nutrition. Good nutrition naturally leads to good health, for anyone. But especially for seniors who may be living with compromised health anyway.
On a lighter note, the Administration for Community Living, a government agency which supports programs for the elderly and disabled, wants to see the “best looking plate”. During the last week of March there is a contest through Twitter where you can send a photo of the best-looking plate. Go to #bestlookingplate to enter a photo of a plate of food that you believe has the most nutrition and appeal. I hope you win.
Photo from SeniorCare Inc.
Administration for Community Living. News and Events. At Senior Centers, Meals Become Gateways to Activities, Services, and Connections. March 15, 2019.
Administration for Community Living. News and Events. March is National Nutrition Month: Eat Well to Protect Your Health. March 18, 2019.
Administration for Community Living. News and Events. National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging Webinars: Healthcare Policy and Practice Opportunities for Senior Nutrition Programs. March 8, 2019.
Administration for Community Living. Updates. Supporting Nutrition, Supporting Health and Independence. March 28, 2019.