Whether it happens at age 65 or 85, older people eventually face one or more problems that interfere with their ability to eat well. Living alone in most cases, they often are unable to meet their dietary needs and are forced to make compromises. Their eating problems stemmed from loneliness and lack of desire or skill to cook. Other older people may eat poorly for other reasons, ranging from financial difficulties to physical problems. The solutions can be just as varied, from finding alternative living arrangements to accepting home-delivered meals.
The Single Life: – Social isolation is a common one. Older people who find themselves single after many years of living with another person may find it difficult to be alone, especially at mealtimes. They may become depressed and lose interest in preparing or eating regular meals, or they may eat only sparingly.
Special Diets: – At the same time, many older people, because of chronic medical problems, may require special diets: for example, a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for heart disease, a low-sodium diet for high blood pressure, or a low-calorie diet for weight reduction. Special diets often require extra effort, but older people may instead settle for foods that are quick and easy to prepare, such as frozen dinners, canned foods, lunch meats, and others that may provide too many calories, or contain too much fat and sodium for their needs.
Physical Problems: – Some older people may overly restrict foods important to good health because of chewing difficulties and gastrointestinal disturbances, such as constipation, diarrhea and heartburn. Because missing teeth and poorly fitting dentures make it hard to chew, older people may forego fresh fruits and vegetables, which are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Or they may avoid dairy products, believing they cause gas or constipation. By doing so, they miss out on important sources of calcium, protein and some vitamins.
Adverse reactions from medications: – It can cause older people to avoid certain foods. Some medications alter the sense of taste, which can adversely affect appetite. This adds to the problem of naturally diminishing senses of taste and smell, common as people age. Other medical problems, such as arthritis, stroke or Alzheimer’s disease, can interfere with good nutrition. It may be difficult, if not impossible, for example, for people with arthritis or who have had a stroke to cook, shop, or even lift a fork to eat. Dementia associated with Alzheimer’s and other diseases may cause them to eat poorly or forget to eat altogether.