Nutrition Activities for Seniors

Nutritional deficiencies are very common in seniors and can be caused by a number of things such as changes in appetite, diminishing sense of taste or smell, reduced physical activity, chronic illness or mental illness.  The first thing that family caregivers should do is determine the cause of their loved one’s problem and address the issue or help them seek treatment.  Once the issue has been determined, family caregivers can work with their loved ones and develop nutrition activities that will make them more interested in food and remind them of the importance of a balanced diet and regular meal schedule. In this article we would like to share some information about nutrition activities for the elderly that will help increase food awareness and allow seniors to make healthy decisions when it comes to food.

Personal Food Pyramid

The first thing that seniors and family caregivers can do is create a personal food pyramid.  Most people have seen a food pyramid at some point in their lives but nutritional requirements change with age so seniors will need to follow a different food pyramid.  Seniors require fewer calories than younger people but often require higher amounts of protein and other nutrients.  Family caregivers should prepare a list of common foods that their loved one eats on color coded paper and have them match the food items to the corresponding food group on the pyramid.  The goal of this activity is for seniors to realize how much food they should be eating from each food group on a daily basis.  It is very common for seniors to eat more than they need from some groups and less than they need from other groups, however, this activity can help seniors balance their diet so that they will get all of the nutrients that they need.

Reminiscence activities center on meals and eating habits of the past.  Some common ideas include looking at older food pyramids to see how nutritional requirements have changed over the years or discussing past meal habits or holiday meals.  Holiday meals are often a favorite topic for many seniors because they can reminisce about fun family gatherings and memories and think about the delicious food that they enjoyed.  Another suggested topic is employment in the food service industry for those that worked in any type of food establishment (restaurant, fast food, grocery store, etc.) in the past because they can remember their younger days and share stories from their days in the workforce. Family caregivers can help their loved ones with this activity by providing old photographs or newspaper articles to help with their memory.

Following Nutrition News

Following nutrition news is another way to keep seniors interested in nutrition.  Providing seniors with information on new legislation related to food or daily recommended dietary allowances will keep seniors up to date and allow them to make informed decisions about their eating habits.  Family caregivers can also find information for seniors related to what certain nutritional deficiencies can cause to help seniors understand the importance of maintaining a balanced diet. As new research is released and nutritional laws change, family caregivers can help their loved ones adjust their eating habits to accommodate the changes.

Sharing Recipes

Another idea for family caregivers and seniors to try is sharing recipes. Recipe sharing can be done in a variety of ways and family caregivers can determine which way best suits their loved one.  Recipes can come from the internet, neighbors, friends or other community members and can be any type of recipe such as traditional recipes, family recipes, foreign foods or any other recipes that people enjoy and are interested in sharing.  Family caregivers can help their loved ones review the recipes they receive and make any necessary changes as they see fit such as making it vegetarian or gluten free.  Family caregivers can also help their loved ones come up with ways to make their meal healthier by finding ways to lower the levels of fat and sodium and increasing the levels of fiber and protein.  Seniors can also try joining a cooking club in their neighborhood to share recipes with so that they can discuss the results of the recipes they tried and any modifications that they made.

Following these tips is a great way for family caregivers to help their loved ones maintain a healthy diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies.  Nutritional deficiencies can cause a number of different health issues and can even make seniors more prone to injuries or broken bones.  The most important thing for family caregivers to remember is that these activities should be fun and educational for seniors in order to be effective.  Family caregivers should be kind and patient and should help their loved ones in any way possible to help make these activities effective.

Other related articles in our home care blog:

The Effects of Sense of Smell & Taste on Elderly Nutritional Intake

Nutritional Risks: Warning Signs of Poor Senior Nutrition

Mealtime Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Nutrition Tips for Seniors