When it comes to aging well, few factors are more important than what you eat. While a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent muscle loss, an unhealthy diet has the opposite effect.
A poor diet can contribute to a variety of problems, ranging from falls to heart disease and stroke. Research also suggests a diet high in saturated fats may increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Older adults who live alone face a variety of barriers to healthy eating. The first step in adopting a more balanced approach to meals is to identify those barriers.
Barriers to Healthy Eating Among Older Adults
Some of the most common barriers include:
- loss of appetite, which may be caused by a health condition or medication
- medical condition or illness that makes chopping and slicing food difficult (e.g., Parkinson’s disease or osteoarthritis)
- digestive issues, such as lactose intolerance, which become more common as you age
- depression that causes an older adult to lose interest in food
- change in sense of taste or smell, also increasingly common with age, that makes food less appealing
- lack of regular transportation to and from the grocery store.
While a visit to a primary care physician might help an older adult overcome a few of these barriers, such as loss of appetite or digestive problems, besting the others may require more creativity.
Healthy Eating for One
If you or an older adult in your family is struggling to maintain a healthy diet, we have a few suggestions for you. Depending on their personal situation, one of these may be a solution.
- Senior transportation: For seniors who have given up driving, relying on convenience foods might seem easier than repeatedly asking family members for rides to the grocery store. While foods like canned soup and frozen meals are more convenient, most aren’t very healthy. From high fat and sodium to low protein and nutrient value, they can put a senior at risk for malnutrition. You can help your older loved one by creating a list of affordable transportation options. Call your local agency on aging for recommendations. This also allows the senior to maintain a sense of independence.
- Home-delivered meals: If food prep or transportation is an issue, a meal delivery service can be a solution. Some, such as Silver Cuisine, provide meals that only need to be reheated. Other companies, like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, deliver fresh, pre-measured ingredients that are ready to cook. Both options can be customized to accommodate special diets, such as low-sodium or diabetes.
- Restaurant delivery services: An increasing number of restaurants are offering a delivery option or partnering with services that deliver meals on behalf of several restaurants. Exploring nearby options can be another solution. You can visit each restaurant’s website to look at menu options and the corresponding nutritional breakdown. The senior might be able to save part of a dinner entrée for lunch the next day, making the meals more cost-efficient.
- Meals on Wheels programs: Most communities have senior nutrition programs that bring healthy meals right to an older adult’s front door. Meals are usually delivered daily during the week with weekend food included with Friday’s package. Fees are typically assessed on a sliding scale based on the older adult’s income.
At Sunrise, we understand the important role a healthy diet plays in a senior’s life. Browse our Nutrition & Recipe Resources for senior nutrition tips, recipes, and other news about aging and eating well.
We also invite you to join us for a meal at Sunrise. Call 888-434-4648 to learn more and schedule a time!