Ageing is a characteristic of all living things. It is the natural response of the body to the passing of time. Human beings, however, struggle with this concept. It is no surprise therefore that humans want to live longer but do not want to get older. This is the human dilemma.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Both the number and the proportion of older persons – defined as aged 60 and over – are growing in virtually all countries, and worldwide trends are likely to continue unabated. By 2025, the number of older persons worldwide is expected to reach more than 1.2 billion, with about 840 million of these in low-income countries.”
This is the reality that as long as we stay alive, we will age. So, we can do ourselves and indeed humanity a favour by accepting this reality. With acceptance, we can then work to make the most of this crucial period of life.
Undoubtedly, the ageing process is a biological reality which has its dynamic, largely beyond human control. As people get older, their positions in society change, their nutritional habits change, and their overall health changes.
It may take longer to digest meals. Water intake becomes insufficient. Food may lose some of its taste, leading to a loss of interest in eating. These are precisely the reasons why as people age, they should be mindful of their diet.
Healthline.com, notes that “Eating healthy becomes especially important as you age. That’s because ageing is linked to a variety of changes, including nutrient deficiencies, decreased quality of life and poor health outcomes.”
It argues that “there are things you can do to help prevent deficiencies and other age-related changes. For example, eating nutrient-rich foods and taking the appropriate supplements can help keep you healthy as you age.”
So, what should elderly persons or senior citizens eat and eat regularly? The answer is simple: nutrient-dense foods.
Nutrient-dense foods are meals that contain all the classes of food. They refer to foods that are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. Vegetables, soy, beans, fruits, whole grains, low-fat milk products, eggs, lean meats, seafood, and nuts are all examples of nutrient dense foods.
These foods contain quality nutrients beneficial to elderly persons. Research by nutritionist’s shows that nutrient-dense foods are valuable to older people because of their digestibility and nutritional content. These foods have nutrients that repair worn-out cells and tissues, improve eyesight and improve appetite.
Fibre from nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes play key roles in the digestive system of the elderly. It can help prevent or ease constipation as well as lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation. Fibre can also control blood sugar levels and lower the chances of diabetes.
Other benefits of nutrient-dense foods are: strengthening of the bones and fortification of the immune system. These are vital areas of a senior individual’s health that must not be overlooked.
Since elderly people are more susceptible to disease due to their slow metabolism and declining appetites, it is wise for them to eat nutrient-dense foods. Protein-rich sources like soy and fish also boost the circulatory system.
Fish is filled with proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). It is rich in calcium, phosphorus and it is a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, and magnesium.
Nutrient-dense meals meet the dietary needs of the elderly. They provide all-round beneficial nutrients and fewer calories. They are a necessity for senior individuals.
Like the popular Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Today is a good time to take charge and focus on the right nutrition to age in style.
Reginald Onabu, Researcher and aspiring Public Relations Officer, Writes from Lagos.