March 3, 2014
Seniors who live alone face unique challenges when it comes to healthy eating. In addition to being solely responsible for shopping, meal planning and meal preparation, they often encounter emotional obstacles associated with living and eating alone. Meals alone can be sad or overwhelming and may lack substance and nutritional value as a result.
An innovative study by Home Instead, Inc. titled Craving Companionship® set out to learn more about these challenges, focusing its research on the mealtime habits and preferences of the 40 percent of seniors age 75 and over who live alone. Of these seniors living alone, two out of every five show at least four signs of poor nutrition. Loneliness, shortened mealtimes, and reliance on pre-made convenience foods are just some of the challenges seniors reported as hindering them from obtaining proper daily nutrition.
Here are three common nutrition challenges facing seniors who live alone and resources you can share to help them overcome these challenges.
Senior Nutrition Challenge #1: Loneliness
Loneliness is the common thread of many mealtime challenges uncovered by the Craving Companionship study. Lack of companionship at mealtime has physical and emotional ramifications, from the type and regularity of meals to the quality of the mealtime experience as a whole.
The Craving Companionship program, developed as a result of the study, is designed to encourage extended families to revive the family meal for the sake of their senior loved ones and offers other ways for bringing social connectivity back to mealtime. The program includes a wealth of mealtime tips and resources for you to share with seniors and their families.
Senior Nutrition Challenge #2: Convenience Eating
Living and eating alone may also increase a senior’s reliance on “convenience foods.” Revamping the kitchen with healthy and convenient food solutions can encourage and equip seniors to make better choices.
Easy-to-prepare items like oatmeal, frozen vegetables and eggs are good staples to keep on hand. Snacks such as yogurt, fruit and nuts are healthy alternatives for between-mealtime cravings. The Nutrition for Seniors workbook provides seniors and their families with a list of 12 essential foods for a healthy diet, as well as other practical ways to help seniors eat well.
Senior Nutrition Challenge #3: Irregular Meals
For many seniors, eating alone means eating less or sometimes not at all. Seniors in the Craving Companionship study reported that meals eaten alone often lack in nutritional value, are shorter in length, and even have a less pleasant taste than meals shared with others. When encouraging families to eat meals with their seniors, consider directing them to these helpful mealtime conversation starters to lengthen and enrich the shared mealtime experience.
Find the complete top 10 list of senior nutrition challenges in the Craving Companionship Executive Summary.
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