If you are an older adult, you already know that your body is changing. Whether it’s the onset of some extra weight, less flexibility, or symptoms of depression, it’s important to stay healthy by eating right and exercising.
As you age, you may notice changes in your body’s makeup. You may lose muscle mass, which may increase frailty. You may also burn fewer calories, especially if you are not very physically active. To prevent weight gain, you may need to eat fewer calories than you did when you were younger. This means you have fewer calories to help you get the nutrients your body needs for energy. So, you need to eat foods that are high in nutrients or are “nutrient dense.”
Older adults, along with other Americans, are advised to “eat from the rainbow” of foods rich in nutrients, like these:
- Fruits and vegetables (choose a range of types with vibrant colors).
- Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and brown rice.
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that is fortified with vitamin D and calcium.
- Seafood, lean meats, poultry and eggs.
- Beans, nuts and seeds.
Some foods have many calories but offer few nutrients. Older adults should eat less of these foods:
- Sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts that have added sugars.
- Foods with butter, shortening or other fats that are solid at room temperature.
- White bread, rice and pasta made from refined grains.
Being Good to Yourself
Due to loss of loved ones, health problems, trouble paying bills or other reasons, many older adults may feel lonely, sad, low or stressed. Being good to yourself may help you improve your “get up and go,” eating habits and health. Here are some ideas for being good to yourself:
- Get enough sleep.
- Stay in touch with family and friends to keep your spirits up.
- Join a walking group or other social group.
- Surround yourself with people you enjoy.
Physical activity is good for your health at every age. If you have never been active, starting regular physical activity now may improve your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Being active can be hard if your mobility is limited or if you have serious health problems, but you can find activities to meet your needs. Slowly raising your arms or legs, for example, may help you when done on a regular, repeated basis. Healthy older adults should do physical activities regularly to:
- Strengthen muscles.
- Improve balance.
- Increase flexibility.
Pick an activity you enjoy and start with small, specific goals, such as “I will take three 10-minute walks this week.” Slowly increase the total amount of time and number of days you are active.
- If you live in an assisted living or retirement facility, ask if the fitness center offers a free health checkup and fitness program.
- Start a walking group with one or more friends.
Lifespan Tip Sheet for Older Adults
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Select high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, vegetables and fruits. Have three servings of vitamin-D-fortified low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese every day to help keep your bones strong as you age.
- Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids.
- Ask your healthcare provider about ways you can safely increase your physical activity.
- Fit physical activity into your everyday life. Take short walks throughout your day.
- Stay connected with family, friends and your community.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services