Optimal Nutrition as We Age

A healthy diet promotes physical and mental well-being and can help minimize symptoms of injuries, illnesses, and diseases. As we age, however, good nutrition may run into obstacles. The gastrointestinal tract becomes less efficient. The mouth produces less saliva, which can lead to chewing and swallowing difficulties. The thirst mechanism decreases, so you may not realize that you need water. The number of taste buds decreases, which can affect your ability to taste and reduce your appetite. Loose, weak teeth and poor-fitting dentures can affect the ability to chew, and medications can make some food taste metallic.

“The good news is that with the proper diet and nutrition know-how, seniors can overcome or significantly reduce these obstacles,” says Joan Katz, RD, Chief Dietitian at Christian Health Care Center (CHCC).

Mrs. Katz and her team of registered dietitians work diligently to ensure that CHCC seniors are receiving optimal nutrition. Each resident, client, and patient in Heritage Manor Nursing Home, Southgate, The Longview Assisted Living Residence, Christian Health Care Adult Day Services, and Ramapo Ridge Psychiatric Hospital benefits from an individual nutrition analysis and a diet geared for his/her current health status. Thereafter, body weight, food consumption, appetite level, and skin condition are monitored so nutritional adjustments can be made, if necessary. Additionally, ongoing educational presentations help reinforce the benefits of proper nutrition.

Ensuring that seniors receive optimal nutrition also involves input from the seniors themselves. During Resident Dining Councils, Heritage Manor and Longview seniors offer their opinions on current menu selections and propose new options. Making meal time enjoyable also promotes healthy eating.

“Dining should be festive,” Mrs. Katz says. “In our society, eating is a social activity. Seniors that live alone often eat less than they should and consequently are underweight. Here, when your dining companions are eating, you’re motivated to eat, too. Meal time not only provides physical benefits, but psychological and social benefits as well.”

For more information about eating and aging or about Christian Health Care Center’s elder-care services, call (201) 848-4463, email khockstein@chccnj.org, or visit our Senior Living and Publications sections.

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