The percentage of senior citizens is growing nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Benton and Franklin counties, people older than age 65 made up a larger percentage of the population in 2013 compared with 2010. Many of these seniors often prefer to live in their homes and are able to age in place successfully, especially with community support.
Some of that support is provided by Senior Life Resources through its Meals on Wheels program and by serving lunches in community dining facilities. These meals provide a third of the recommended dietary allowance for protein, fiber, fat, calcium, and Vitamins A, C, B6 and B12. Seniors are at risk for bone loss, so calcium is important to prevent fractures. B12 absorption may decrease with age, so some people older than 50 need a supplement as well. A 2013 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found B6, B12 and folate may help prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
What older people eat can delay or lessen the severity of chronic disease and add years to their lives. A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health found that whole grains and bran were associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The National Institute on Aging recommends people older than 50 eat whole grains for at least half of the grains eaten, as well as many colors and types of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts seeds and two meals a week of seafood. They advise eating only small amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, salty snacks, processed foods, soda, alcohol and added sugars.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds contain antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients that help prevent obesity and chronic diseases. They are associated with lower risks for some cancers, and they may help prevent cognitive decline. Fish has been found in some studies to decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and contains protein and other nutrients. Find more information on aging and diet at www.nia.nih.gov.
“Pay attention to who lives next door,” says nutrition services director at Senior Life Services Marcee Woffinden.
Does an elderly neighbor need help with yard work? Can you run an errand or take your neighbor to an appointment? Is your neighbor alone over the holidays? Since Senior Life Resources only provides one meal each day, you could drop by to see your neighbor with something to eat. While a plate of cookies shows you care, fresh fruits and vegetables supply nutrients that everyone needs.