At any age, nutrition is vital to maintaining health and enhancing quality of life. However, achieving good nutrition can be especially difficult for the elderly, the fastest growing portion of America's population. Many factors, including physiological changes, changes in nutritional needs, illness and physical limitations, food-medication interactions, depression and loneliness, and food insecurity are common causes of malnutrition in the elderly. This paper will explore factors affecting elderly nutrition, provide suggestions for obtaining and maintaining good nutrition after age 65, and describe the services available to help the elderly meet their nutritional needs.
A number of factors influence the nutritional status of the elderly. First, several physiological changes impact elderly nutritional requirements. Changes in taste and smell may decrease an individual's appetite or desire for food. Gastro-intestinal motility decreases with age and may lead to constipation, decreased nutrient absorption, and a decrease in fat and protein absorption. Metabolism also slows with age; this results in a decrease of lean body mass and an increase in body fat (8). Lastly, bone mass decreases, leaving the elderly vulnerable to bone fractures from falls and osteoporosis.
Ultimately, these physiological changes result in different nutritional needs for the elderly. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences issues the Recommended Daily Allowances for healthy people over the age of 51. However, these RDAs are limited in that they have been derived from studies of younger, healthy populations and do not account ...
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5) Good Nutrition is Ageless. Egg Nutrition Center. 22 Jan. 2002 <http://www.enc-online.org/elderly.htm>.
6) Good Nutrition for Seniors Caregiver Fact Sheet. 9 Aug. 2001. National Network for Health. 22 Jan. 2002 <http://www.nnh.org/products/gnfs.htm>.
7) Home page. Meals on Wheels Association of America. 22 Jan. 2000. <http://www.projectmeal.org/mowaa.html>.
8) "Nutrition Index." Gerontology and Geriatric Dentistry n.d.: n. pag. Columbia University Dental Education Software. N.d.
9) A Profile on Older Americans: 2001. 10 Jan. 2002. Administration on Aging. 22 Jan. 2002 <http://www.aoa.gov/default.htm>.
10) The Warning Signs. New York State Office for the Aging. 22 Jan. 2002 <http://agingwell.state.ny.us/eatwell/warning.htm>.
11) Wieand, Jane. Telephone Interview. 22 Jan. 2002.
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