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    Nutrition Through the Life Cycle: Older Adults

    It is projected that the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double by 2060 (Population Reference Bureau, 2016).

    These are some of the facts:

    o   January 2016: There were 46 million older adults

    o   2060: It is projected that there will be over 98 million older adults

    • In the near future, this age group will make up about 24 percent of the total population.

    • The older population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.

    • Older adults are working longer, and these levels are projected to increase by 2022.

    Nutrition Wheel

    As we age, some of our nutrient needs change.   Some nutrients become more important in order to maintain our health, including vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, fiber, folic acid and water.  If you are eating a plant-based diet, you may need to supplement your diet to get some of  these nutrients.

    VITAMIN B12: After the age of 50, we don’t get enough vitamin B12, so a deficiency may develop.   

    Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms:

    o   Anemia

    o   Fatigue

    o   Memory problems

    o   Nerve problems

    o   Difficulty walking

    Since these symptoms are common in older adults and can be caused by something else, a deficiency is easily missed in this age group. This vitamin helps keep your nerves and red blood cells healthy.

    Foods Rich in Vitamin B12:

    • Fortified cereals
    • Lean meat
    • Some fish and seafood
    Vitamin B

    CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D: These nutrients are very important for bone health.  Bone health is important for everyone to help prevent  osteoporosis.

    CALCIUM: Most of the calcium in the body is stored in the teeth and bones. 

    Foods Rich in Calcium:

    • Vitamin D-fortified milk or yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Eggs
    • Fortified cereals and fruit juices
    • Dark green leafy vegetables

    If you take  a calcium supplement or multivitamin with calcium, it should include vitamin D.

    Calcium photo

    VITAMIN D:  Vitamin D plays a role in protecting the bones since the body requires it to absorb calcium.

    If there is not enough vitamin D in the diet, bone loss and lower bone density may occur, and broken bones are more likely due to falls.  Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. The skin is able to make vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is stored in the body and for later use.. In addition to the risk of skin cancer, older adults tend to spend less time in the sun and therefore do not produce enough vitamin D this way. Most people need supplements of vitamin D.

    Foods Rich in Vitamin D:

    • Tuna
    • Salmon
    • Milk and other dairy products fortified with vitamin D
    • Some brands of other dairy products, orange juice, soymilk and cereals also fortified with vitamin D
    Vitamin D photo

    FIBER: Eating more fiber-rich foods helps older adults stay regular. Fiber also can help lower the risk for heart disease and prevent Type 2 diabetes.

    Foods Rich in Fiber:

    • Whole-grain breads and cereals
    • Beans and peas
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables

    POTASSIUM: Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium (salt) may lower the risk of high blood pressure.

    Foods Rich in Potassium:

    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt

    FOLIC ACID: New research shows that older adults may benefit from increasing their intake of folic acid.  This seems to help lower the risk of stroke and hearts disease.

    Foods Rich in Folic Acid:

    • Broccoli
    • Liver
    • Wholegrain cereals
    • Leafy vegetables
    • Citrus fruits
    Man getting ready to exercise

    WATER: Water is a nutrient required for life. 

    It is important to replace the water that is lost through sweating, and using the restroom.  Drinking caffeinated beverages and sugar sweetened beverages does not help with replacing lost fluids.  Older adults should speak with their health care provider if they are on water restriction, or have bladder issues that make them afraid to drink water.