For seniors, good nutrition is one of the keys to staying healthy and strong. The human body works best when it has access to all of the vitamins and nutrients that it needs. A well-balanced diet not only helps ensure that seniors are getting proper nutrition but it also can help them maintain a healthy weight, making it easier to stay active. A diet that incorporates key vitamins and minerals can help with everything from maintaining good bone density to preserving good mental clarity and focus.
Unfortunately, not all seniors follow healthy eating habits. Poor nutrition can increase the risk of health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It can also result in a general decline in their overall quality of life.
Poor nutrition can lead to malnutrition can lead to a weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections, poor wound healing, muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures, a higher risk of hospitalization or increased risk of death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Eating In Isolation Is Detrimental To Seniors’ Well-Being
Years ago, most families gathered around the dinner table to eat a meal with one another, talking about the events of the day. Unfortunately, as life becomes busier, this habit is becoming less and less common. This is bad news – not just from a social perspective but also from a health perspective. Studies have shown that families that don’t eat meals together generally aren’t as healthy as families that do. When everyone grabs dinner on their own, they are more likely to make poor food choices. This can result in an overall decline in health.
Although it may seem unrelated, this actually is a good illustration of why it is so detrimental for seniors to eat alone. When people eat in isolation, they are less likely to eat balanced meals. Instead, there is a tendency to just grab whatever is handy and easy to prepare. Over time, this can cause a wide array of health problems ranging from a compromised immune system to problems with malnutrition or weight loss. This is especially problematic for seniors since their bodies are not as strong as those of younger people.
According to recent research, approximately one-fifth of all seniors experience loneliness when they eat by themselves. Unfortunately, this problem is all too common. Many seniors live alone and don’t have anyone to keep them company during mealtime. Getting out of the house is also more challenging than it used to be, which can make it hard to connect with others for a meal.
Understanding How Socializing During Meal Time Can Make Seniors Healthier
Interestingly, researchers have found that people who eat meals with someone else generally enjoy better health. When people eat around others, they are more likely to make good food choices. It is easier to find the motivation to prepare a healthy meal when there is someone to share it with. Additionally, the simple act of socializing during a meal can lift the spirits of a lonely senior, making them feel more like eating. The simple act of sharing a meal with someone else provides a social experience that can be uplifting and inspiring for someone who has spent a lot of time eating alone. It is easier to get excited about a meal when there is someone around to enjoy eating it with.
A Closer Look At Mealtime
Every senior living facility is different. However, most of them go above and beyond to make sure that residents are getting good nutrition. Not only do they use fresh, locally grown ingredients but they also cook the food at the facility. Seniors may even be able to customize their meals based on their individual preferences. The chefs who work in these facilities put the needs of the residents first, making sure that their dietary requirements are being met.
Mealtime may have changed for some seniors due to age-related changing tastes, medication interaction, a decline in motor skills, budget or loneliness. One fifth of seniors report feeling lonely when they eat alone.
Seniors who share meals with other people are far more likely to feel like they belong than those who eat alone. Even though people often eat by themselves in this day and age, seniors grew up in a different time when meals were all about gathering together with loved ones and sharing good conversation. As a result, it can be particularly disheartening for them to find themselves alone at mealtime. Over time, this sense of isolation can cause them to become depressed or withdrawn.
When seniors live alone, they often lack the motivation to cook a meal for themselves. They may decide to skip eating or they might just grab a pre-packaged snack or meal to skip the hassle of preparing a home-cooked meal. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, and other problems that can negatively impact their health.
The human body naturally declines with age. One way to combat these changes is by making sure that all of our nutritional needs are being met. When the body’s metabolism slows down, the appetite decreases as well. Oftentimes, seniors are also taking prescription medications that can interfere with their desire to eat. Dental problems can also make it harder to consume certain types of food. Again, this can interfere with good nutrition.
How Social Dining Positively Impacts Seniors
Sharing a meal makes mealtime itself more satisfying for seniors. A companion, like one from Assisting Hands Home Care, can assist with mealtime when family can’t be there. Caregivers can work with seniors to gather a list of foods they like to eat, grocery shop, prepare a balanced meal and eat with them to help ensure proper food quality and nutrition. Seniors overwhelmingly say someone sharing a meal with them makes the meal itself more satisfying. While no one will ever replace family at the dinner table, caregivers can help fill some of the void.