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The body’s function slows with age, and its ability to replace worn cells is reduced.
The metabolic rate slows and can decline up to thirty percent over a lifetime. This
results in decreased caloric needs which can be complicated by changes in an older
person’s ability to balance food intake and energy needs. Even with a decreased
caloric need, many older people have difficulty getting sufficient calories which
can eventually lead to chronic fatigue, depression and a weekend immune system.
As we age our body composition changes with a decrease in lean tissue mass (as much
as 25%) and an increase in body fat. Such changes can be further accelerated because
older adults utilize dietary proteins less efficiently and may actually need a greater
than recommended amount of high quality protein in their diet to maintain lean tissue
mass. Bones also becomes less dense and eyes do not focus on nearby objects as they
once did and some go cloudy with cataracts, poor dentition is common and hearing,
taste and smell are less acute. Digestion is affected because the secretion of hydrochloric
acid and enzymes are diminished. This in turn reduces intrinsic factor synthesis,
which leads to a deficiency of vitamin B12. The tone of the intestines also slows
down and the result may be constipation or in several cases diarrhoea.
Feelings do not decrease with age. In fact, psychosocial problems can increase as
one grows older resulting in depression and diminished appetite. The elderly frequently
complain that they do not like to cook for one person or eat alone, either at home
or in a restaurant. Studies indicate that elderly living alone do not make poorer
food choices than those living with a spouse, but they do eat fewer calories. Poor
self-esteem may also lead to lack of interest in eating.
Unless one has carefully prepared for retirement it can typically affect one’s nutritional
intake by sacrificing on expensive food items like milk and its products, meats,
fruits, dried fruits and nuts, which are rich sources of calcium, protein, zinc,
iron, B-vitamins and vital anti-oxidants. It is generally observed that lower the
income, the less likely adequate and varied diet will be consumed.