Nutritional Solutions for Seniors
Good nutrition never goes out of style, though it can be a challenge that comes with advancing age. But overcoming nutrition issues is vital in the aging population, as a poor diet can compromise overall health and shave off precious years of life with loved ones.
Luckily, there are a number of solutions to ensure nutrition for the elderly and we are here to help you find them!
Senior Nutrition Issues
Good nutrition in the elderly is paramount for healthy aging and longevity, though seniors face nutritional issues and the risk of malnutrition. Defined as being improperly nourished, malnutrition is a condition in which the body is not getting, or able to get, enough nutrients. Improperly balanced diets lead to deficits in essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are required to sustain overall health and well-being.
Whereas malnutrition is not a side effect of aging, there are many changes associated with the aging process that increase its risk. Malnutrition has variable causes, including poor diet, disinterest in food, food insecurity, eating disorders, problems with digesting and absorbing nutrients from foods, depression, cognitive changes, medications and medical conditions. Seniors who are socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, or disabled tend experience malnutrition the most.
But despite the factors that cause malnutrition, the consequences can be damaging if not fatal. Health concerns related to malnutrition include impaired immunity and healing and increased risk of infection and breakdown of the skin and muscle, further snowballing risks of falls, injuries, and additional health complications.
Finding Nutritional Solutions for Seniors
To mitigate the risk of malnutrition and its magnitudes on overall health, a number of solutions are available to help overcome such nutrition issues in the senior population. Sustaining good nutrition in the elderly can be achieved through caregiver assistance, restaurant amenities, online meal delivery services, and food assistance programs:
Whether it be a family member, neighbor, or long-term care employee, caregivers are unpaid or paid individuals who assist in the care of others. While responsibilities of the caregiver vary based on the senior’s individualized needs, assisting in mealtime is a common task. Caregivers assist in mealtime by planning and preparing meals, along with cleaning the kitchen and monitor food expiration dates.
Caregivers might likewise provide sustainable meals for the week or month that involve a simple transfer from the fridge or freezer to the oven or microwave for quick heating. Healthy, low-maintenance options might include soups, casseroles, and crockpot meals.
Caregivers can also help seniors utilize restaurant amenities, online meal delivery services, and food assistance programs described in greater detail right below.
From senior discounts in-house to innovative delivery services, restaurants offer nutritional solutions by offering monetary reductions and convenience.
- Senior Discounts
Senior discounts are a renowned perk of getting older and can start as early as age 50. Discounts vary based on location, though may include a free beverage or 20 percent off a menu item. Some grocery stores also offer senior discounts, particularly on certain days of the week. The best way to take advantage of senior discounts is by asking and confirming whether or not the establishment of interest participates.
- Restaurant Delivery
Restaurant delivery services have evolved greatly over the past decade, allowing consumers to call in much more than pizza. There are a number of services now offering delivery without direct contact to the restaurant itself, and rather operate with a third party ordering and delivery system. Services such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash deliver food straight to your home from participating restaurants in the local area.
Online Meal Delivery Services
Online meal delivery services tend to fall in one or two options: Meal kit services deliver portioned ingredients to create homemade meals, while others offer ready-prepared, microwaveable meals ready in just minutes.
- Meal Kits
For seniors who still enjoy cooking at home, there are convenient options to obtain the ingredients without a trip to the store. Services such as Instacart (https://www.instacart.com) promote to deliver grocery lists in as little as one hour, while major corporate companies, such as Amazon, also offers grocery delivery.
- Ready-Prepared Meals
For those desiring ready-prepared meals, there are companies that do all of the grocery shopping, preparing the meals, and shipping them directly to doorsteps. For instance, Silver Cuisine offers an a la cart menu with meals starting as low as $5.99. Silver Cuisine has a staff of Registered Dietitians that create recipes and have options tailored to a loved-ones specific dietary guidelines. You can sort by specialty diets including heart healthy, low sodium, diabetic-friendly, gluten free and more.
Food Assistance Programs
At federal, state, and community levels, a wide variety of local partnerships to bridge the gap between malnutrition and food insecurity, including the following programs submitted by the National Council on Aging:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once recognized as the Food Stamp program, provides benefits to qualified households through electronic cards that enable them to buy nutritious food at eligible and participating stores.
SNAP can also be used by seniors to help cover the cost on Meals on Wheels, an organization composed of different local programs around the country that provides warm and balanced meals via delivery or congregational setting.
- Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
A federally funded benefits program that awards grants across the U.S., the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) gifts the opportunity for low-income seniors to purchase fruits, vegetables, fresh-cut herbs, and honey from farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program
In participating states, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CFSP) supplements low-income seniors over the age 60 with care packages including a wide assortment of nutritious U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) foods, including milk, juice, cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, canned meat, poultry, or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federal program that provides nutritious food to low-income Americans at no cost. The USDA buys food and ships it to the states, which is then distributed to local organizations such as food banks, which further allocate the food to soup kitchens and food pantries.