As you age, getting adequate nutrition might be a little more challenging.
Your appetite might start to decline, which means, every diet decision needs to make a difference. While a good, balanced diet should do the trick, some of the most important vitamins are difficult to obtain through food alone.
According to Advanced Accredited Practicing Dietician, Anne Schneyder, Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins to integrate into your diet as you age. The problem? It’s almost impossible to obtain sufficiently through diet alone. “It’s important that older people eat a wide variety of foods to obtain the full range of vitamins and minerals they need to keep them healthy, and to ensure they have the energy they need to live their best life,” Anne says. “The one vitamin that may be difficult to obtain by doing this alone is Vitamin D. It’s the so-called sunshine vitamin, as it is formed by the action of the sun on the skin.”
Recent studies suggest people over the age of 50 have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, with the risk increasing as they age. “Vitamin D acts like a hormone to increase absorption of calcium and phosphorus into the body,” Anne adds. “It helps to protect the bones against osteoporosis or brittle bones as we age. It is also important for the normal function of all of our body cells and it is thought that it may be important for our immune system.”
While difficult to obtain through diet alone, Anne believes it’s still important to try. “A limited number of foods contain small amounts of vitamin D such as oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. Liver, egg yolks, full cream milk and butter also contain small amounts,” Anne says. “Vitamin D might also be added to some such as margarine. However, it is really not possible to obtain a sufficient amount from diet alone. We need some sun exposure to our skin to enable the body to produce enough vitamin D.”
According to The Medical Journal of Australia, daily exposure to the hands, face and arms (around 15 per cent of the body’s surface) needs to happen on most days to get enough vitamin D. “The time needed differs depending on the latitude, season, time of day and skin type,” Anne adds. “For example, those with moderately fair skin living in Sydney would need 6-8 minutes in summer, but a lengthier 26-28 minutes in winter at 10am, dropping down to 16 minutes in winter at midday. Of course, any time spent in the sun needs to be balanced with the risk of sunburn and sunscreen should always to be used.”
While your diet needs will change in your 70s and beyond, Anne believes it’s important to stay on top of why this is the case. “As a person ages, their ability to produce vitamin D from sun exposure will decrease, so requirement for the vitamin increases,” Anne says.
Aged care communities, such as Aveo, have taken matters into their own hands to ensure their residents have a good, healthy diet. “Without the appropriate amount of nutrition in an elderly diet, muscle mass begins to shrink and the risk of falling increases,” says John Casey, National Food Services Manager of Aveo. “Nutrition in an elderly diet is also important to prevent or minimise the effects of dementia, and to maintain the independent lifestyle we all enjoy.”
Aveo, with the assistance of Nutrition Professionals Australia (NPA) has taken a more scientific approach to nutrition by creating a national nutritional framework. “NPA and Aveo have worked together to develop nutrition guidelines for all of Aveo’s catering services in our dining rooms and our ready-made meal offering, Nutrition Select,” John adds. “Nutrition Select ready-made meals have been designed as nourishing with levels of protein and energy in line with healthy eating recommendations.
“By doing so, chefs ensure that all meals are prepared with quality ingredients in accordance with the dietary requirements of each individual resident. Independent Living residents enjoy dining from a varied a-la-carte menu at some of our on-site restaurants. Serviced apartments (assisted living) and aged care (high care) residents’ meals are structured and supported by overall guidelines regarding adequate serving sizes and the provision of nourishing meals.”
The ready-made meals are created with the needs of seniors in mind, with delicious recipes including Roast leg of lamb with roast vegetables, Salmon patties with seasonal vegetables and Corned silverside with parsley sauce and vegetables.
“We’re committed to leading the charge in the retirement industry with a dedication to providing choice, excellent food and a great dining experience for our residents, by introducing Select Dining by Aveo into community restaurants and dining rooms,” John says. “Under the guidance of NPA, menus have been developed with the unique needs of seniors in mind while delivering restaurant quality cuisine across all Aveo communities.
“Our focus is to implement a hospitality approach to cooking. The reaction has been positive as Aveo residents embrace more choice.”
Aveo, together with Nutrition Professionals Australia, have developed the Better food and nutrition handbook to provide older Australians with the vital ingredients necessary to enjoy a healthy lifestyle for many years to come.
Click below to download your copy.