As we age, ensuring proper nutrition and exercise becomes integral to maximizing health and living longer. But, what are the essential components of health and wellness for seniors— whether living at home or in a senior care community?
Diana Frana, the Senior Care and Activity Programming Coordinator at The Terraces of Bonita Springs in Fort Myers, Florida says it’s important to address the six basic wellness dimensions, including emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and vocational wellness. She further states dietary and fitness programs are paramount to these dimensions and to senior health in general.
“With less movement in most senior’s lives, they tend to gain excess weight,” she says. “Through basic educational programming, we can help residents understand how to make better choices when it comes to meals. We also need to provide healthier choices on our menus. Wellness programming should identify the possibilities to increase or regain mobility. Use of meditation to reduce stress levels concentrates on brain health. When we keep the brain engaged and spirits high, everything else falls into place much easier.”
Frana is, of course, correct in believing nutrition does not exist in isolation but is only one component of maximizing senior health and wellness. In fact, new research by Martha K. McClintock (published in the May 2016 issue of PNAS) shows biological age has less to do with how seniors feel than other factors. This reconceptualization of traditional models, instead, illustrates how factors such as mental health, sensory function and mobility often are more important to senior health than underlying medical conditions. Further, the study shows how proper diet directly contributes to muscle mass, which in turn directly contributes to overall health.
So, what should seniors be eating to help improve or maintain their health?
The USDA Eat Smart, Live Strong program advocates increasing vegetable and fruit consumption to 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables per day. An additional component of this program is at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
Linda B. Bobroff, a University of Florida Professor and Researcher in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, gets even more specific and expands some nutritional requirements. She adapted her MyPlate for Older Adults program from the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, which is focused on finding and maintaining a healthy eating style throughout life.
Bobroff’s MyPlate for Older Adults recommends:
- Eating more dark green and orange vegetables, and adding more dried beans and peas (2.5 cups per day)
- Choosing a variety of fruits (fresh, canned, dried or frozen), and eating rather than drinking most fruit choices (1.5 cups per day)
- Ensuring at least half your grains are whole grain, and eating cereals fortified with vitamin B12 (6 ounces per day)
- Varying your proteins, while eating them baked, broiled or grilled. Choosing lean meats, and varying your protein sources (5 ounces per day)
- Getting plenty of calcium-rich foods, including low-fat, fat-free or lactose-free products or other calcium-fortified foods and drinks (3 cups per day)
- Choosing fiber-rich foods
- Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
- Limiting sweets and empty calories
- Using less salt and sodium
- Consuming healthy oils from fish, nuts and liquid oils
Like Frana’s advice and McClintock’s recent study, Bobroff’s MyPlate for Older Adults program also recommends staying active and enjoying life as critical elements for overall senior health.
We can help you find a great long-term fit in senior care and senior housing that includes proper nutrition and exercise as part of an overall older adult healthcare program. Begin your search today by contacting us at 941.479.3500 or via email at JDaniels@AssistedLivingLocators.com.
If you’re a senior care industry professional or senior caregiver who would like to weigh in on nutrition and wellness for older adults or you have a new topic you’d like to see covered on our Senior Living Blog, please email us at JDaniels@AssistedLivingLocators.com.