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Healthy eating as we age

food-salad-healthy-lunch

Eating well should be a goal at any age, but especially as we get older. When we age, we need to watch how the changes in our bodies interact with the items that we’re consuming.

A healthy diet is key to living a better life. It will help improve energy levels, allow you to better fight off illness, and give you the mental acuteness you need.

How does our body change?

There are multiple processes that take place in our bodies as we age.

These include:

  • Lowered senses: Our sensitivity to salt and bitter leave first, which may make you want to add more salt to items.
  • Digestion slows: Your digestive system slows down, meaning it is more difficult to process certain vitamins and minerals that are important for mental alertness.
  • Metabolism slows: Adopting a healthy diet and exercise routine will help avoid unnecessary weight gain

What should I be eating?

The key is the find foods that are healthy and delicious. It is one thing to try to eat lots of kale and spinach, but if you dislike the taste you will end up getting sick of the items quickly.

Here are some foods you should be including in your diet:

  • Fruit: (2-3 servings per day)
  • Vegetables: (2-3 cups per day) of dark, leafy greens (spinach, broccoli) and colorful veggies (carrots)
  • Grains: (5-10 ounces) Stay away from processed white flour and try more whole grains with nutrients and fiber
  • Oils: (5-8 teaspoons) Eat foods full of healthy oils like olives, avodacos, and nuts
  • Calcium: Limit your milk consumption to 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat types. 1 cup of yogurt, 1-1.5 oz of cheese, 1 cup of cottage cheese.
  • Protein: (5-7 oz) Eggs, tofu, nuts, peanut butter, fish, poultry

Snack smart

You can snack between meals if you feel yourself getting hungry. But be sure that they are healthy snacks low in calories, sodium, saturated and trans fat. These include items like Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, and grilled chicken.

More fiber

As we age, our digestive systems become less efficient. That means we need to be eating much more fiber than we used to. Women over 50 should be eating at least 21 grams per day and men over 50 should eat at least 30 grams.

Here’s how you can get your fiber in:

  • Whole grains
  • Wheat cereal, barley, oatmeal
  • Beans and nuts
  • Vegetables like carrots, celery
  • Whole fruits (including the peel)

Skip the sugar & empty calories

We probably don’t need to be reminding you, but stick to drinking water. Sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and energy drinks may taste great but they are not doing your body any good.

Also stay away from “empty calories” which include many items in the middle aisles of the grocery store including cookies, alcohol, and chips.

Resources

Healthy Eating after 50
National Institute on Aging

Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors
National Council on Aging

Eating Well As You Get Older
NIH Senior Health


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The Age-Friendly Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving nearly here, we wanted to share this lovely set of tips for hosting an all-ages-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner that we found floating on the Internet.  They were originally posted here on the eCaring blog, and were written last year by Melody Wilding.  Remember, it can be hectic to work out getting family from far flung locations together in one place, preparing an enormous meal, and making sure everyone is comfortable and having fun, especially the elderly or infirm members of the family.  We want you to have all the help you can get!

Woman with turkey

Tips for Hosting an Age-friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

By: Melody Wilding

Between coordinating travel plans, cooking, cleaning, and throwing a cast of personalities into one room, anxieties can run high around Turkey Day. If you are entertaining a mixed age group this year, respecting the eldest guests should also be high on your list.

How can you host a Thanksgiving dinner that accommodates the unique health and physical needs of elderly relatives and friends? Creating an age-friendly Thanksgiving dinner is simple with some forethought, planning, and communication.

Here are ways to ensure it is a happy holiday meal for young and old alike:

  • Be mindful of seating arrangements – If your aging parent or grandparent has physical limitations, seat him or hear at the end of the table, providing ample room to get up easily and more often without disrupting others.
  • Review the floor plan – Run through your home’s layout to make sure it is safe and free of any hazards that could cause a fall. Add additional lighting, secure carpets, and reduce any clutter in walkways. If your elderly loved one has a walker, wheelchair, or medical equipment (such as an oxygen tank), ensure that passageways have enough room to accommodate. Going out for dinner? Visit the restaurant beforehand to see if there are many stairs, tight spaces, or other conditions that would make it difficult for your aging relative to navigate safely.
  • Ask about dietary requirements – Begin planning your dinner menu in advance by asking your loved one and consulting his or her medical provider for dietary guidelines. For diabetics or persons with chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, special diets such as low salt, low sugar, or low fat must be adhered to. If your loved one has suffered a stroke or otherwise has trouble swallowing, consider including a soft food dish in your menu.
  • Strike up conversation – Do not make the mistake of making your loved one feel invisible at Thanksgiving dinnertime. Many falsely assume that seniors are cranky and uninterested in chatting. However, the communal, family-feel of Thanksgiving is the perfect time for aging loved ones to share stories and lessons. As host, help encourage intergenerational communication by making children, teens, and older adults comfortable and meaningful, rather than awkward.
  • Enlist help – Consider hiring in-home respite care services to support caregiving duties around Thanksgiving crunch-time. This person can provide assistance with personal care, such as feeding, as well as companionship and stimulation. If your aging parent of grandparent has a home health aide, invite the caregiver to share dinner with you. Knowing your loved one has the help they need within range will bring comfort and peace of mind.
  • Acknowledge the person’s pace – Persons with dementia become uncomfortable and fearful in situations filled with noise and action. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, find a peaceful place him or her to rest before the event begins to help ease the transition. Keep the volume of music and conversation even and fairly low. If being around many people or at a restaurant is too stressful of physically impossible, improvise! Plan family visits throughout the day to cover all meals shifts – breakfast, lunch, or dinner – or ask small groups of family members to visit with the person on alternate days before or after the Thanksgiving holiday.


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General Health Tips for Seniors

If you’re over 65, staying healthy and in shape takes on a few extra dimensions.  It’s much harder, it takes much more work, and your body is much more finicky about what you can and can’t do than it was just a few years earlier.  It can be very hard to do it, but staying fit and healthy is essential for long and happy Golden Years!  Parent Giving shared a great list of tips that we would like to share with you to help you get started.  They may not all apply to you or your lifestyle, but whichever of them do are definitely to be kept in mind.  You can find the original here.

cardio-training-for-senior-women

  1. Quit smoking. Take this critical step to improve your health and combat aging. Smoking kills by causing cancer, strokes and heart failure. Smoking leads to erectile dysfunction in men due to atherosclerosis and to excessive wrinkling by attacking skin elasticity. Many resources are available to help you quit.
  2. Keep active. Do something to keep fit each day—something you enjoy that maintains strength, balance and flexibility and promotes cardiovascular health. Physical activity helps you stay at a healthy weight, prevent or control illness, sleep better, reduce stress, avoid falls and look and feel better, too.
  3. Eat well. Combined with physical activity, eating nutritious foods in the right amounts can help keep you healthy. Many illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis, can be prevented or controlled with dietary changes and exercise. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help women prevent osteoporosis.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Use the Kaiser Permanente BMI (body mass index) calculator to find out what you should weigh for your height. Get to your healthy weight and stay there by eating right and keeping active. Replace sugary drinks with water—water is calorie free!
  5. Prevent falls. We become vulnerable to falls as we age. Prevent falls and injury by removing loose carpet or throw rugs. Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter, and use night-lights in hallways and bathrooms. Did you know that people who walk barefoot fall more frequently? Wear shoes with good support to reduce the risk of falling.
  6. Stay up-to-date on immunizations and other health screenings. By age 50, women should begin mammography screening for breast cancer. Men can be checked for prostate cancer. Many preventive screenings are available. Those who are new to Medicare are entitled to a “Welcome to Medicare” visit and all Medicare members to an annual wellness visit. Use these visits to discuss which preventative screenings and vaccinations are due.
  7. Prevent skin cancer. As we age, our skin grows thinner; it becomes drier and less elastic. Wrinkles appear, and cuts and bruises take longer to heal. Be sure to protect your skin from the sun. Too much sun and ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer.
  8. Get regular dental, vision and hearing checkups. Your teeth and gums will last a lifetime if you care for them properly—that means daily brushing and flossing and getting regular dental checkups. By age 50, most people notice changes to their vision, including a gradual decline in the ability to see small print or focus on close objects. Common eye problems that can impair vision include cataracts and glaucoma. Hearing loss occurs commonly with aging, often due to exposure to loud noise.
  9. Manage stress. Try exercise or relaxation techniques—perhaps meditation or yoga—as a means of coping. Make time for friends and social contacts and fun. Successful coping can affect our health and how we feel. Learn the role of positive thinking.
  10. Fan the flame. When it comes to sexual intimacy and aging, age is no reason to limit your sexual enjoyment. Learn about physical changes that come with aging and get suggestions to help you adjust to them, if necessary.