The elderly population is one that often gets forgotten when people talk about healthy eating and the importance of protein. Those belonging to a younger generation may not see the need to stay educated about the needs of our aging population. It becomes a little easier when, instead of looking at elderly people as a whole, we begin to put a face to them. We are talking about your Grandmother and Grandfather, favorite uncle or aunt, aging family friends and all those that play such an important role in our lives.
So, what do we all need to know?
· Loss of appetite- Illness, chronic medical conditions, and depression can all be reasons that it seems older folks don’t eat very much. Why does this matter? Smaller amounts of food being taken in can be a cause of protein deficiency. If the amounts of calories that are taken in are smaller, a greater amount will need to be from protein rich resources.
· Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) - this is a condition that is marked by an inadequate amount of protein and calories in a person’s diet, leaving the body without the minimal required nutrition to function. This condition is often seen in the elderly that live in assisted living or nursing homes, but can also be seen in children that are not getting good nutrition at home; up to 48% of hospital patients have this issue.
· When we age our muscle mass naturally declines and our total body fat goes up. Keeping a nutritionally balanced diet becomes more of a challenge when older people begin to lose their sense of taste and smell and some foods can seem less appetizing. Also, keep in mind that many protein rich foods can be hard to eat with tooth loss.
We all need protein. Protein provides the building blocks that muscles use, helps immune and brain function, and provide the energy we need to move about in our daily lives. As we age a balanced diet, with plenty of protein, will help to keep our brains and bodies limber; reminding those in our lives that are of advanced age of the importance of protein is essential.
“Nutrition and Aging”- Colorado State University http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09322.html
“Protein Deficiency in the Elderly”- Livestrong.com http://www.livestrong.com/article/10051-need-protein-deficiency-elderly/