Nutrition and care of the elderly

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Nutrition and care of the elderly

N​utrition and Hydration Week has taken place every March since 2012. Its purpose? To unite people, and to create energy, focus and fun in order to highlight and educate people on the value of food and drink in maintaining health and well being in health and social care.

A survey from Public Health England (PHE) found that around 9 in 10 people support the notion of the government working alongside the food industry in order to make food healthier.

Why is good nutrition important?

Stating the obvious, your food choices each day affect your health in and, in turn, how you feel today, tomorrow, and in your long-term future.

Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and promote your overall health.

The link between good nutrition and healthy weight reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is simply too important to ignore. By taking essential steps to eat healthily, you'll be well on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong.

Nutrition and the elderly

Older people are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. Since both lean body mass and basal metabolic rate decline with age, an older person’s energy requirement per kilogram of body weight is also reduced.

Degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer, which are among the most common diseases affecting older persons, are all diet-affected. Increasingly in the diet/disease debate, the role that micronutrients play in promoting health and preventing noncommunicable disease is receiving considerable attention. Micronutrient deficiencies are often common in elderly people due to a number of factors such as their reduced food intake and a lack of variety in the foods they eat.

Adequate nutrition, especially in older age, aids in the maintenance of health and in decreasing the onset of chronic diseases, contributes to vitality in everyday activity, to energy and mood and helps in maintaining functional independence.

Which nutrients do the elderly need?

Let's explore some of the most important vitamins and minerals that are particularly important for older people...

Calcium and vitamin D

Older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health. Have three servings of calcium-rich foods and beverages each day. This includes fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with soft bones, milk and fortified plant beverages. If you take a calcium supplement or multivitamin, choose one that contains vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Fortified cereal, lean meat and some fish and seafood are sources of vitamin B12.


Eat more fibre-rich foods to stay regular. Fibre also can help lower your risk for heart disease and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Eat whole-grain bread and cereals, and more beans and peas — along with fruits and vegetables which also provide fibre.


Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium (salt) may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and beans are good sources of potassium. Also, select and prepare foods with little or no added salt. Add flavour to food with herbs and spices.

Good fats

Foods that are low in saturated fats and trans fat help reduce your risk of heart disease. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are primarily found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fish.

Ensuring someone in your care is eating and drinking the right things

There are many ways you can encourage a person in your care to eat food and drink fluids:

  • If the person eats independently, serve the meal by placing it within easy reach

  • Make sure the older adult has all the utensils they will need

  • Observe and check frequently to see if they need help

  • Offer to cut/prepare food for an older adult who is having difficulty

  • Offer a choice if the individual doesn't seem to be enjoying what they are eating

Newcross Nurse, Maria Jones, said:

"We often believe that we can handle whatever is thrown our way. It's normal for older people to feel a stubbornness around food and drink, but it's really important to keep an eye and make sure they're receiving enough of the right foods, little and often.

"Protein is particularly important as it helps to create new cells and keep muscles healthy."

Read more insights for other tips on caring for the elderly.