General Nutrition

Nutrition & Seniors
Aging Americans will make up an unprecedented proportion of the population as the 78 million baby boomers reach age 50. The baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, will first reach age 65 in 2011, transforming the 35 million people over age 65 in 2000 to an estimated 69 million by 2030. With improved health care, socioeconomic status, and health behaviors, people 85 and over are expected to be the fastest-growing group of elderly persons, tripling from 4 million in 2000 to about 14 million by 2040.

A nutritious daily diet is one factor that can assist people who are 55 and older in maintaining optimal levels of health and preventing or delaying the onset of diseases including:

  • Iron-deficiency Anemia
  • Osteoporosis & Osteopenia
  • Economic conditions that lead to inappropriate weight loss
  • Social Isolation & weight loss
  • Cancer
  • Poor dentition

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) are the quantities of nutrients that form the basis for planning and assessing diets. The DRIs include the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI), the nutrient levels that meet the requirement for nearly all (97–98%) healthy people.

According to the RDIs, elderly people have the same nutrient requirements as their younger counterparts, yet most need fewer calories. Vitamins D and B6, and calcium, are exceptions and are needed in greater amounts for those 51 years old and older. Therefore, a nutrient-dense diet, with fewer calorie-laden foods, becomes more crucial at older ages of the life cycle. In general, women have nutrient requirements similar to men, though they require fewer calories. Therefore, elderly women must be especially careful to select nutrient-dense foods.

The Food Guide Pyramid (FGP) is helpful to guide food selection and daily serving totals. An FGP specifically for those over 70 years of age recommends 1,200–1,600 calories from whole-grain foods, a variety of colored fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish and poultry, and eight glasses of fluid daily. Food labels help put single servings of food into the FGP. Results of national dietary surveys have led some experts to recommend calcium supplements and a one-a-day type of multiple vitamin. Other health food supplements are not generally needed and can be very expensive for those on fixed incomes.

Edy McClure MS, RD, CDE, CD-N
94 Fox Run Drive
Southbury, CT 06488

P. 203-267-4090
F. 203-267-4057
Email Edy McClure