Nutrition for the elderly – what you need to know

Nutrition for the elderly – what you need to know

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As we age, our bodies’ nutritional needs change. However, change doesn’t have to be bad, nor does it have to mean surviving on soft, bland food or boiled cabbage!

Everycare Winchester know to how to provide the best care for you, but when it comes to nutrition, do you know how to best care for your own needs? To help you move and look as young as you feel, we’ve listed below the essential components for a healthy diet (and we promise there isn’t a boiled cabbage in sight!)

Variety is vital  

The more variety in your diet, the healthier your gut flora will be. The health of your gut is paramount to your overall wellbeing, affecting everything from memory and mood to immunity and skin.

A great way to ensure you’re consuming an array of nutrients is to ‘eat the rainbow’. Sadly, we’re not talking about eating endless amounts of Skittles, but a rainbow spectrum of fruit and vegetables. Every colour provides a different health benefit, like orange vegetables are packed full of vitamin A which is great for eye sight, and purple hues provide potent antioxidants that fight ageing free-radicals.

Don’t be afraid to try new foods. We’re sure by now you know exactly what you like and what you don’t, but you’re never too old to try something new. You never know, you might discover a new favourite!

Pass the salt

As we age, we become more sensitive to salt, so a lower sodium intake can benefit those with high blood pressure; reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Unfortunately, this may mean you need to pay extra attention to any packaged food you buy and the amount of salt you use to season your food. Most pre-packaged food already contains high levels of salts, so when you sprinkle on extra you’re likely to be consuming more than your recommended daily allowance of sodium, 2.4g sodium/ 6g of salt.

Tip: Swap standard table salt (which is processed to contain sodium and 0 minerals) for naturally occurring Himalayan pink salt (which contains 84 minerals including all 6 electrolytes our bodies require). Plus, Himalayan salt tastes saltier therefore less is needed!

Up your fibre

Digestive health can be an issue amongst older people with many suffering from constipation. One way to improve digestive and bowel health is to increase the amount of fibre in your diet.

Fibre can help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol, aid diabetics by balancing blood-sugar levels, lower the risk of certain cancers and slow the rate at which nutrients are broken down so you stay energised for longer.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, oats, whole grains, seeds like flax and chia and powders like psyllium husk are all great sources of fibre.

Eat omega 3’s

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid (EFA), so called because it is needed by the body but cannot be manufactured in the body; it must be obtained via diet.

EFA’s have been found to aid brain, heart, eye, joint and skin health. They prevent abnormal neuron function, reduce the risk of macular degeneration, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, decrease joint stiffness and inflammation, moisturise skin and reduce the risk of wound infection.

Foods rich in omega 3’s include: oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soy beans and spinach.

Supplement for strong bones

Many people are deficient in vitamin D and calcium, particularly amongst the older generation.

Older individuals tend to eat less, have limited diets and venture out less, therefore their bodies are receiving little calcium and vitamin D.  In addition, our bodies’ ability to absorb vitamins and minerals decreases with age too. For example, the skin of an elderly person produces 4× less vitamin D compared to a younger individual when exposed to sunlight for the same amount of time.

Both calcium and vitamin D are needed to maintain strong bones which are especially important for seniors who are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, as well as falling.

Our main source of vitamin D comes from sunshine, as only traces can be found in foods like mushrooms, egg yolks and oily fish. Calcium can be found in dairy, seeds, beans, lentils, leafy greens and fish with edible bones like sardines and canned salmon.

Unless you have retired abroad and are currently sunning yourself on a roof terrace, you ought to take a vitamin D supplement, especially during the months of October to March. Ideally, choose a supplement with both vitamin D and calcium for maximum vitamin/mineral absorption and strong bones.

Stay hydrated

Did you know dehydration is one of the biggest causes of hospitalisation in older adults?

The human body is composed of approximately 60% water. However, that water percentage decreases with age which means the risk of dehydration increases.

If your body is dehydrated it struggles to regulate temperature, transport nutrients around your body and lubricate joints. This will likely result in feeling cold, tired and achy.

Aim to drink 2 litres of water a day and ensure fluids are always readily available to you. Keep a bottle of water next to your bed or on your coffee table so it’s always near to hand!

A tipple & a treat

Good news, alcohol and chocolate are firmly on the menu.

Red wine and dark chocolate (70% cocoa +) both contain flavanols which can provide a myriad of health benefits. They can aid brain health by protecting neurons, help the brain’s ability to learn new information, improve memory and cognitive functioning, help blood circulation which regulates body temperature, reduces fatigue and reduces foot/hand swelling, so pass the wine (for a small glass every now and then!)

It’s important to note that portion control is required; 30 to 60g dark 70% cocoa and 175ml wine is enough to reap the benefits.

A final word

Food is not just fuel, it’s a way to nourish your body, ignite your taste buds and bring you joy. Be mindful of the ingredients you are putting into your body, but most of all, enjoy what you’re eating.  Life’s too short for overcooked cabbage and stodgy mush!

Exercise Classes To Boost Elderly Fitness

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Winchester has recently started to offer two new exercise classes for the elderly. The Exercise Plus sessions are being run by the Winchester Live At Home Scheme. The new sessions will be held at the Weeke and Colden Common Community Centres.

The Weeke class takes place every Thursday, at 11:00 and lasts for an hour, and the Colden Common sessions are every Saturday at 11:00. You can visit either of these locations on their allotted day and time, and try the first class for free to discover if it is right for you.

There are also a number of other locations that offer this class. The United Church on Jewry Street, on Tuesdays at 10:30. Makins Court in Alresford and St Mark’s Church Hall in Oliver’s Battery also have Exercise Plus classes that run on a Tuesday at 2:30. This gives everyone living in the Winchester area the opportunity to take up an exercise class if they are interested.

The sessions are run by qualified instructors and are designed to help you to improve balance, posture and strength. This can have a number of benefits for older individuals including: maintaining independence, improving overall well-being, and reducing isolation.

If you or someone you know may be interested in joining one of these classes, you can contact the Winchester Live At Home Scheme on 01962 890 995 or email

There are a number of other classes and activities that are available in the Winchester area for elderly individuals. The Winchester Live At Home Scheme offers a wide variety of clubs and activities for individuals and these include: a walking group, a seated exercise group and a lunch club. All of the groups and activities available can be extremely beneficial as they give everyone the opportunity to get out and socialise with others, as well as maintaining independence, overall health and well-being.

The River Park Leisure Centre in Winchester also offers a Health and Fun Club, designed specifically with the over 50’s in mind. There are a variety of activities to try and enjoy including: Tai Chi, Tennis, Yoga and Keep Fit classes. These activities can all help to improve strength and overall well-being, which in turn can help you to stay at home, and live independently.

New Energy Fitness in Winchester also offers a wide range of classes to cater for a variety of needs. They hold two senior conditioning classes, which are aimed at improving the fitness and well-being of those over 60. The Seniors Strength, Agility and Flexibility Classes run on a Tuesday from 2:30 – 3:15, and is aimed at helping to improve the strength around joints, whilst improving agility and flexibility. The Seniors Flexibility and Balance Class runs on a Friday from 10:00 – 10:45. This class aims at improving overall fitness, and allowing you to become more mobile in daily life. Both of these sessions are £8 a class.

Participating in exercise classes can have a number of benefits to your overall health and well-being. They can leave you feeling more energised and confident, meaning you may feel better able to deal with day to day activities. Exercise classes will allow you to socialise with others in similar situations to yourself and create new friendships, which in turn will lead to a happier and healthier you.

How Can Maintaining An Active Lifestyle Benefit The Elderly?

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Population level studies have shown that people who exercise enjoy a higher quality of life and improved health status compared with those with sedentary behaviours, with subsequent reductions in their risk of admission to hospital.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is important for us all, did you know:
• 23.1% of individuals between the ages of 65-74 do not partake in any physical activities
• Partaking in 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week can help an individual to maintain independence
• There are a number of things an elderly individual can do to lead an active lifestlye
This article looks at how an elderly individual can stay active, the benefits of exercise and the help that Home Care can give…Read On.

Can Joint Replacements Keep The Elderly Active For Longer?

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Joint replacement, though starting early, became available more generally in the 1960s with hip replacements followed by knee replacements. Ankle and shoulder replacements are now available. Due to increases in the elderly population and improvements in surgical procedures the number of joint replacements has been increasing massively and is set to carry on increasing. It is predicted in the USA that between 2005 and 2030 hip replacements will grow by 174% to 572,000 and for knee replacements to grow by 673% to 3.48 million.

Data from 2011, in the UK, shows 80,314 hip replacements, 84,653 knee replacements and 492 ankle replacements, data on shoulder replacements was not collected in 2011. The data shows that most replacements occur due to osteoarthritis and the average age at replacement is around 68 years.

As we get older it is common for our posture and walking pattern to change. This is because many changes occur in the body as we age. For example bone density as lost during the ageing process, particularly in women after experiencing the menopause. During the age process joints may also get stiffer and less flexible. This is because the fluid in the joints can decrease and this means that the cartilage may begin to rub together and erode. Calcification (deposit of minerals around the joints) can occur particularly in the shoulder joint. The hip and knee joints are common areas for cartilage to be lost.

Effects age related changes can have on the body

Almost all elderly individuals are effected by joint changes in some way, and this can vary from stiffness to Arthritis. There are a number of effects that ageing can have on the body, for example bones can become brittle, and these means that they can become more prone to breaks. The most common effects that can occur include: inflammation, stiffness, pain and deformity as a result of a breakdown of the joints structure.

As a result of these changes within the body individual’s are more likely to become unsteady on their feet, and this can result in falls. This can have a major impact on an individual’s health and well-being, as falls can result in serious breakages, such as a hip fracture.

What can be done to help?

In serious cases joint replacements would be a viable option, as it can relieve pain and disability. It is common as people age for them to need knee or hip replacements. This is because these are joints that see a considerable amount of wear and tear throughout individual’s lives, though statistics show that many replacements are due to the pain from osteoarthritis which there is no current cure for.

The procedure for a joint replacement involves removing the damaged joint and then an artificial joint (either made of a metal alloy or ceramic) is put in place. This can either be cemented or non-cemented. Cemented means that the artificial joint has been fixed to the remaining bone with cement, and this is quite often used in older individuals as their ability to heal is more limited. Non-cemented joint replacements allow the bones to naturally grow around the replacement to fix it into place. This is generally used in cases where younger individuals or more active individual’s need joint replacements. This is because it can provide more flexibility and movement in the long term. However with this method of joint replacement healing time may take considerably longer than a cemented joint replacement as the bones need the opportunity to grow.

Recovery time following a joint replacement can be particularly long, and an individual may require countless hours of physiotherapy and support in order to regain movement and flexibility. Generally individuals manage to regain a normal level of activity within two to three months of having the replacement, but it can take up to a year to make a full recovery and full benefits of the new joint. Following the surgery you would be enrolled into an exercise programme that is designed to help to gain strength and improve mobility of the new joint.

Home care and joint replacements

As a result of the surgery it is likely that you will be off of your feet for a while, and recovery may be slow, some extra help may be needed. It may be beneficial to implement a home care package in order to provide some additional support. A care worker would be able to visit to help with daily living tasks such as washing, dressing and preparation of meals. Care workers can also provide some support with some exercises in order to help build up strength in the new joint. The Care Worker can focus on getting you back to doing what would have normally been doing before the surgery.


In the UK history is showing that replacements are lasting 8 years without problems in many cases therefore people are prolonging their active lives. Having to redo work on joints is occurring in around 10% of cases and as more data is collected and shared with surgeons around the world the life of replacements is increasing and the level of issues is reducing.

Could The Elderly Be At High Risk Of Poor Heart Health?

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Do you know how healthy your heart is? As people age it is important that they know about the health of their heart, Cardiovascular Disease is the biggest killer in the UK with 180,000 deaths recorded in 2010 and in the USA the figure is around 370,000. The biggest increase comes once people are over 75, in fact Cardiovascular Disease is the number killer for people over 45.
Research shows that heart problems within the elderly population are potentially being overlooked. One if four elderly people have an undiagnosed heart condition. This may be happening because individual’s aren’t receiving regular heart checkups.

As we age many changes occur within the body, this can have a particular impact on the heart. There are some normal changes that happen to the heart as part of the ageing process, but some problems may arise and in this case individual’s should always seek a doctor’s advice.

Ageing changes to the heart

There are many ways in which the heart changes as we age including: slower heart rate, increased size of the heart muscle, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), and muscle degeneration. The thickening of blood vessels also impacts heart health, as it can cause conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle). There are also changes that occur in the blood that can cause issues such as: a slower response to blood loss, anaemia, and an inability to resist infection.

Common heart problems

Common heart problems include: angina, arrhythmia, arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries), congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, heart valve diseases, and anaemia. This conditions can occur at any time in an individual’s life, but the likelihood of these conditions occurring increases as individual age because the heart muscle weakens.

Effects of changes to the heart

Changes to the heart muscle during the ageing process can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of individual’s. For example an older heart may not be able to pump blood as effectively as it used to, and this could lead to the individual needing medications or surgery in order to assist the heart.

What can be done to help?

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent or relieve heart conditions. For example eating a heart-healthy balanced diet. This reduces the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol levels within an individual’s diet, and this can help to control an individual’s weight, which in turn provides a number of benefits for the heart.

Regular exercise can also provide a number of benefits such as: preventing obesity, reducing stress, and in diabetics it can also help individual’s to control their blood sugar levels.
Having regular heart checkups is also important. During these checkups individual’s should have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Blood pressure should be checked at least once a year, and cholesterol at least once every five years. However if the individual suffers from conditions such as: diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems, these should be monitored more regularly. It is important to receive regular heart checkups particularly as you age because it makes it easier for doctors to notice changes to the heart’s condition. This is important because it allows problems to be treated effectively and efficiently. This can prove to be particularly important if an individual is diagnosed with a serious condition, as an early diagnosis may help an individual to maintain an active lifestyle for longer.

How home care can help

Care workers would be able to provide a wide variety of support such as: prompting medication taking. This can be particularly useful for those suffering heart conditions, as they may have difficulty remembering to take medications, especially when they have to be taken at certain times.

Other ways in which care workers may be able to assist is through encouraging exercise, by encouraging them to partake in physical activities or assisting them in going out for a walk on a regular basis.

They could also help to prepare meals that follow a balanced diet. This can be extremely beneficial, as this can help individual’s to stay active, and it could it turn prevent deterioration and obesity, as well as helping to maintain independence for as long as possible.

Need Help To Prevent Muscle Loss? Improving Diet And Exercise Can Help

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Muscle loss can be a common factor amongst the elderly. The ageing process can make the body frailer making exercising more difficult. This means that individuals can lose muscle tone which can make it more difficult to complete daily living tasks, which will cause them to lose their independence. In order for individuals to maintain their independence for as long as possible the best solution would be to exercise on a regular basis, and ensure that an adequate level of protein is consumed as part of a balanced diet.

How Exercise Can Help

Exercise can be extremely beneficial in preventing or reducing muscle loss. With regular exercise muscles are being worked and toned. This reduces the chances of muscle wastage, and this in turn can leave an individual feeling fitter and stronger. This is extremely beneficial particularly in the elderly because it allows them to maintain their independence for much longer, in comparison to those who don’t exercise regularly.

How Can Protein Help Prevent Muscle Loss

An individual’s diet can have a significant impact on muscle tone amongst the elderly. Protein is of particular importance because its main purpose is to aid growth and repair of the body. There are many foods that contain high levels of protein, including: fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and whole grains. These foods can be very beneficial in preventing muscle loss, as proteins are essential for maintaining and repairing body cells which is essential in the elderly, who can struggle with muscle loss as a result of periods of inactivity. This in turn can lead to individuals losing their independence.

For women in particular it is vitally important that an adequate amount of protein is consumed. This is because most sources of protein contain high levels of iron, which is a key nutrient. Another reason why protein is particularly important for women is because they are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, and this can cause all sorts of mobility problems which can lead to muscle loss.

Muscle Loss And Home Care

For those who are struggling to complete daily living activities within their homes as a result of muscle loss, Home Care may provide a helpful solution. Individuals can work with care workers to complete exercises that will help to improve muscle tone and stability. This in turn can help them to become stronger, and this will help them to be able to complete daily living tasks with greater ease, and will help individuals to maintain a level of independence for longer.
Home Care workers can also help to increase an individual’s confidence and self-esteem through using gentle exercises to build muscle tone. This is beneficial because it can help an individual to feel more confident in completing activities.

Working with a care worker to complete exercises on a regular basis can be extremely beneficial for the elderly. It provides them with additional help and support, which in turn allows them to build their confidence and self-esteem. This can be particularly important for those where muscle loss may be an issue, because it gives them the confidence to get out into the community where they can partake in a regular exercise regime.

In conclusion it is of vital importance that all individuals maintain a level of fitness through actively taking part in exercise on a regular basis in order to improve muscle tone. This is important, particularly amongst the elderly because it is easy to lose mobility and this can have a significant impact on individual’s independence. Protein is a key factor in an individual’s diet in terms of maintaining muscle tone because it aids growth and repair, and as part of a balanced diet can help to provide an individual with the energy that they need in order to complete the exercise that is vital for maintaining muscle tone and preventing muscle loss.

Home Care And The Benefits Of Exercise

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It is often said that exercise brings health benefits to people of all ages, I can personally attest to feeling good after taking exercise not only does it improve your health but it is a chance for your brain to concentrate on something else, a relief away from the normal routine or pressures of life.

Anyone that has been immobilised, for example, having a leg put in plaster knows what happens to your muscles when you are not using them. The recovery time to get your muscles fully functioning after coming out of plaster can be quite long. Why do we not take exercise and run the risk of our muscles becoming weak? It is a vicious circle as the muscles get weaker we seem less inclined to take exercise.

Our Home Care Agency will always encourage people to stay active and do as much as possible for themselves. Keeping fit, also, helps to avoid trips and falls which are a real problem for people as they get older.

Researchers at Duke University found that exercise serves as a natural antidepressant and other studies suggest it may improve brain function and even protect against dementia. During exercise, the body releases endorphins which are natural opiates and relieve pain. Activity in the brain’s frontal lobes and the hippocampus is also boosted. Levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are increased and these neurotransmitters help to improve mood. Exercise also increases levels of brain-delivered neurotrophic factor or BDNF, which not only improves mood but also helps brain cells to last longer.

In fact, a recent study of people suffering from dementia showed daily exercise over a 12-month period improved mental ability by 30 percent. The subjects of the study also showed an improvement in their ability to feed, dress and bathe themselves. This is because activity keeps the body flexible and strong, and also improves balance and spatial control which has been proven to reduce the likelihood of falls. It’s also good for the heart and for blood pressure, both of which have been linked to dementia.

In another study, anxiety symptoms were reduced by 20 percent by adding daily exercise to subjects’ lifestyles. Even light exercise tires the body, which helps with achieving a full night’s sleep and maybe even developing a better sleep routine. One of the most important benefits of exercise is that it’s enjoyable and helps to pass time.

If you are in the position of being a carer yourself do not neglect your own health. Being a carer can be quite stressful and exercise can act as a natural stress reliever. It is even better if can exercise with the person you are caring for because you both improve your moods at the same time. It is important that you do not treat it as competition when you are getting someone to exercise who has not done it for a long time.

When beginning on an exercise regimen, start easy. Don’t push. The point isn’t to train for a marathon, it’s to gradually get the body moving more and increase mental health. What might seem like nothing to you, could be physically taxing for someone else.

There are many ways to include easy and fun exercise in your daily routine:

  • Take walks around the garden, your neighbourhood or a shopping centre
  • Perform light household chores.
  • Participate in water exercises at your local leisure centre for resistance on every part of the body.
  • Exercise using light weights, these can be purchased for a small amount or alternatively use objects from around the house.
  • Choose a relaxing Tai Chi routine on DVD.
  • Go cycling on a nice, easy path.
  • Integrate Wii Fit’s several light exercise options into your routine, it is fun way of keeping fit and can be done with others as well.

Doing exercise should not be seen as a chore that has to be done every day. It should be fun and socially interactive.

Precautions Prior to Exercise when Older

If you have not exercised for sometime it is worth taking some precautions before doing any exercise that will exert you more than you are used to.

  • Get a check up from the family doctor. Start training gradually and slowly increase physical exercise each day to build stamina and conditioning.
  • Warm up. It is important to do plenty of stretching and to warm up properly. Failing to warm up could lead to injuries and be counter-productive.
  • Consume liquids. Taking a bottle of water to the gym is important in terms of keeping the body hydrated and flushing toxins. Take regular sips of water during training.
  • Focus on form and not the amount of weight lifted. Trying to lift too much can only serve to cause serious injury.

Mike Frizzell