If you’re a senior, then understanding your changing nutritional needs is an important part of staying safe and healthy. If you’re a caregiver, then you can make an effort to help the senior understand these changes and the new requirements they face.
Many seniors believe they are living a healthy life because they believe many of the nutritional myths they were taught when they were younger. Unfortunately, those same guidelines no longer have the same beneficial results and could lead to poor nutritional choices.
There are many reasons why a senior may fail to meet their new nutritional requirements. In some cases, they are prevented because of medications or certain disabilities, but that is not always the case. Many seniors live in relative isolation and don’t have the social guidance needed to stay on track.
There are a variety of nutrition-based activities that you can experience on your own as a senior or with the help of a caregiver. These activities can help seniors better visualize and understand their nutritional needs. They will make it easier to build beneficial meal plans and stick with those plans over the coming months.
Here are a few simple nutrition activities to consider.
1. Nutrition-Based Games
Most seniors enjoy games just as much as their younger friends. There are numerous games that can be adjusted to reflect nutritional guidelines and recommendations. One such game is called “Nutritionary”. It is a very popular learning tool that is recommended by several institutions like the Administration for Community Living.
At its core, Nutritionary is simply a nutrition-based spin-off of the well-known game, Pictionary. It is best played in a group with at least four players and a coordinator, though it can be adjusted to work with fewer people.
A coordinator (usually the caregiver) gives words or phrases to a chosen member of a team. These words or phrases should relate specifically to food and nutrition tips for seniors. Simple starting phrases are often just foods like “apple” or “strawberry”. The chosen member then draws the item and members from both teams take turns guessing the item.
The team member who first correctly guesses will score points for their team. The round continues with follow-up questions that provide more information about that food item and its role in senior nutrition. For example, the coordinator might ask, “what role does protein play in the body?” or, “how many servings of dairy should you have each day?”. These questions create a fun way to teach seniors about their nutrition needs.
2. Recipe Sharing
If a senior enjoys cooking, then they’ve likely collected quite a few recipes over the years. If they are willing to share, then you can create a recipe sharing event where you and other seniors share healthy recipes.
If they do not want to share, then they can simply find recipes from alternative sources like the internet or recipe books. A gathering with a caregiver and one or more seniors sharing recipes can benefit everyone involved.
The role of the caregiver is to share recipes that are helpful for the senior in their current condition. It’s not about just sharing the most delicious recipes that you know of. It’s about sharing recipes that contain enough protein, calcium, and vitamins for an aging individual.
Similar to Nutritionary, it’s a good idea to make the activity as entertaining and educational as possible. Let them know what exactly makes a recipe healthy. How many calories does the meal contain? Are there any key nutrients that could be added from an additional source? In time, they will understand what it takes to make a well-rounded meal and how to avoid poor nutritional choices.
You can make the event even better by cooking the shared recipes, either during the same day or at a later time. If you manage to share a recipe that is healthy as well as delicious, then they’ll be more likely to remember it. They might even feel compelled to add it to their own recipe stockpile or create a new recipe book filled with healthy meals for the elderly.
3. Group Shopping Experience
Some seniors struggle to eat healthy meals because they are limited by their ability to travel or shop. It is often easier to stay at home and eat whatever is in the pantry or the refrigerator.
Studies have shown that more elderly people are choosing to stay home where they have more freedom, but they lack the ability to regularly travel and shop for healthy groceries. This is becoming a serious contributing factor to malnutrition in seniors.
However, a senior may not feel compelled to ask for assistance traveling and shopping even when they may need it. As a caregiver, you can make this process easier by recommending a fun shopping trip. It’s a simple activity that can be a lot of fun and has the potential to greatly influence their meal choices for several weeks.
Taking a regular trip to the grocery store or to an outdoor farming market is a great opportunity to encourage healthy food purchases and to provide some education. You can make sure that they purchase all of the key staple food sources for providing protein, fiber, calcium, and other vitamins. Take a moment to view what food items they have at home before leaving so that you have a better idea of what is needed.
It’s important to keep the trip fun along the way. You want to avoid making anyone feel like a burden so that they are likely to return with you in the future. It’s also a great way to squeeze in some extra walking for a senior who may not get the recommended amount of physical activity.
Make Learning About Nutrition Fun
Not everyone enjoys the idea of being taught something new. Even so, nutrition for the elderly is very important, and learning key guidelines could help save their life. Use these fun nutrition activities to engage in socializing, keep moods high, and teach a few important lessons along the way.