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 Regular Exercise Benefit The Elderly?

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It is important for elderly individual to exercise on a regular basis in order to maintain independence, did you know:

• Only 22% of elderly Americans take part in exercise on a regular basis
• 4 out of 10 individuals in America aged 65 or over have difficulty completing basic tasks and daily living activities
• The number of falls within the elderly population could potentially be reduced if individuals were to exercise on a regular basis

The figures shown above for America are likely to be similar in the UK, many of us need to be doing more exercise for better health outcomes.
This article looks at how exercise can impact on an individual’s daily life, maintain independence for longer and the help that Home Care can give.

Elderly People Exercise

It is recommended that elderly people partake in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. This can include activities such as: brisk walking, water aerobics, tennis, and general gardening. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity will make you breathe harder and raise your heart beat, this healps to makie your heart stronger.

Elderly people should also complete muscle-strengthening activities 2 or 3 days a week. This activities should work all of the major muscle groups which include: legs, back, hips, chest, arms, abdomen and shoulders. Muscle-strengthening activities are generally repetitive movements to help build muscles up over time. These activities include: bicep curls, chair stands, arm raises, knee flexes, hip flexes, and shoulder flexes.

The weekly recommended level of activity for elderly people can be spread out over time, however in order for it to be effective it is recommended that individuals spend no less than 10 minutes at a time exercising.

Benefits Of Exercise For Older People

There are a number of benefits that exercising on a regular basis can have on the elderly and these include: maintaining independence, preventing a wide variety of medical conditions, improving cardiovascular strength, reducing stress, improving mood, and reducing the risk of falls.

Exercise can reduce the risk of an older person developing a variety of medical conditions, and this is largely because regular exercise can help to improve an individual’s overall health and well-being. For example regular exercise can help to prevent Osteoporosis because it can help to increase bone density. This in turn can help to reduce the likelihood of an individual suffering from falls because they will become stronger, and more able to mobilise with confidence.

By exercising regularly elderly individuals can also maintain independence for longer, this is because staying active can help to improve overall strength and health. This means that the individual is likely to suffer from falls, meaning that they will be able to live at home and remain independent for much longer in comparison to those who don’t exercise on a regular basis.

Exercise can help to release endorphins which in turn can help to relieve stress and improve the overall mood of the individual. Regular exercise could also help to boost an individual’s confidence which can improve the individual’s mood further.

Simple exercises done at home cost nothing but can be of great benefit if done consistently. It is worth finding out what local exercise groups there are, these groups enable you to exercise and socialise at the same time.

Home Care

Implementing a Home Care package could also be extremely beneficial for older people. This is because a care worker would be able to visit them within their own home, and help them to participate in activities that they enjoy. For example a care worker may be able to take an individual out for a walk, to ensure that they are getting some exercise on a regular basis.

Through a Home Care package individuals can maintain independence for longer because they will receive the support that they need to remain active. Care Workers will also be able to provide them with encouragement in order to help boost their confidence and self-esteem.

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.

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