Good health is the ultimate goal for elderly people in their retirement, which should be a time of enjoyable rest and recreation.
At the New Life Healthy Aging Clinic we provide useful advice for elderly healthcare. With the aim to maintain good health for our patients, our four practices are simple and easy to follow: attentive nutrition, regular exercise, annual health check-up, and vaccination for immunity.
Nutritional problems in the elderly are common and can cause serious health problems such as weak, degenerative muscles, low bone mass (osteoporosis and osteopenia), anemia, weight loss, amnesia, and mood disorders.
In general, older persons should consume between 1,500 to 2,000 kilocalories a day, from all five food groups. We recommend eating diverse types of foods, spread among three meals and two snacks per day. Make sure to include vegetables and fruits to increase fiber intake.
Suggested nutrients for the geriatric diet:
- Protein: To maintain and strengthen muscle mass, prevent muscle degeneration, and repair deteriorated tissue, elderly people should regularly eat good quality protein. Find it in lean meat, egg whites, skimmed milk, and soybean products.
- Carbohydrates: This nutrient provides energy to the body. The older person should consume a sufficient amountof carbohydrates in order to maintain a suitable body weight. Choose complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and millet.
- Fat: Older people need only a small amount of fat to provide the body with enough essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. They should reduce or limit foods high in fat such as fat from animals, butter, oil, coconut milk, and concentrated cream.
- Calcium: Older persons should consume at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily to prevent osteoporosis andbuild bone density. Calcium rich foods are milk and unsweetened dairy products, soybeans, bean flour sheets, small fish with edible bones, and dark green and orange colored vegetables.
- Iron: This mineral helps prevent anemia and fatigue. Foods high in iron include red meats such as lean pork and beef, green vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, red beans, and black sesame seeds.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from foods, prevent scurvy, and heal wounds more quickly. High vitamin C foods are broccoli, potatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, papayas, mangos, strawberries, guavas, and oranges.
- Potassium: Consume this to maintain normal blood pressure, help muscular and nervous systems function effectively, and maintain the appropriate balance of body liquid. Potassium rich foods include bananas, oranges, guavas, dried fruit, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, oats, and coarse rice.
- Vitamin B12: This nutrient is vital for the production of red blood cells (erythropoiesis), brain cells, and nerves. A prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia and amnesia. Vitamin B12 is found in yogurt, milk, whole egg, and all kinds of meat, such as beef, chicken, pork, and fish.
- Magnesium: This is an essential mineral for the functional processes of numerous body systems such as the immune system and bones. It plays a critical role in optimal nervous system function, and healthy muscles and heart. Find magnesium in fish, green leafy vegetables, bananas, and beans.
- Vitamin A: It helps maintain eyesight, prevents rapid vision loss, promotes tissue growth, and boosts the immune system. Foods with vitamin A include spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, papayas, and ripe mangoes.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium and helps prevent bone diseases. The body can synthesize vitamin D from sunlight exposure. Older persons who do not get much sunlight should eat cereals and mushrooms, and drink vitamin D fortified milk regularly.
- Vitamin E: This antioxidant helps prevent the destruction of body cells. It’s found in avocados, beans, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
- Zinc: This mineral helps the immune system to work efficiently and helps maintain appetite. Older persons may need more zinc than younger people, as zinc absorption decreases with age. Zinc is commonly found in meats, seafood, and eggs.
- Fiber: This material assists the excretory system in working properly and prevents possible intestinal problems. Remember to have vegetables and fruits with each meal to get sufficient amounts of fiber.
- Water: Water helps deliver nutrients to organs, helps with bowel movement, prevents constipation, and moisturizes skin. Drink six to eight glasses of clean water (or unsweetened herbal drinks as an alternative) daily.
Regular body movement and exercise helps maintain joint health and muscular strength, and prevents joint stiffness and pain often afflicting older people. Regular exercise can prevent these common problems:
- Exercises to halt and reverse low bone mass (osteoporosis): The program should include weight-bearing exercises or exercises that directly stimulate muscles. Great exercises that use one’s own body weight include walking, Tai Chi, dance, and cycling.
- Exercises to prevent falls: Do exercises that promote body balance, coordination of muscles, and increase muscle strength. For example, standing up and sitting down exercises from a chair, or lifting your legs up and down while grabbing the back of a chair.
- Exercises to reduce urinary incontinence: This involves regular clenching of the pelvic floor muscle to increase tightness and enhance the excretory system. Do it 50 to 100 times per day. Moreover, don’t retain urine for too long. Doing so can lead to bladder infections, so urinate when you first feel the urge.
- Exercises to reduce knee joint degeneration: These exercises emphasize the strengthening of muscles around the knee joints. For example, sit with your feet on the floor and stretch the knees up and down, remaining in each position while counting from 1 to 10. We don’t recommend exercises that involve walking up and down the stairs, squatting, or kneeling.
- Exercises to increase the strength of the cervical and lumbar spine: These focus on proper positions for sitting, standing, and walking. Try to sit up straight and not crook or extend the back excessively to prevent muscle degeneration.
- Exercises to correct stiffness of the shoulder (frozen shoulder): Try the wall climbing posture or back rubbing.
Warning: Always consult with your doctor or physical therapist
before practicing any exercise postures. If during (or after exercise) you experience double vision
, fainting, headache
, irregular heartbeat
, shortness of breath, or chest pain, stop immediately and inform your health professional.
Annual health check-up
Older persons should have a health check-up once a year, including eye and oral examinations, to minimize the risk of unexpected health concerns.
Vaccination for immunity
Vaccinations are another key component of elder health because they prevent diseases that degrade the quality of life, and can also help to save on medical care costs. Vaccines suggested for older persons include:
- Influenza: Get this annual vaccination, which is reformulated every year, to guard against mutating strains. Doctors recommend it before the rainy or winter seasons.
- Tetanus: Get this every 10 years to prevent tetanus from uncleaned wounds or wounds from accidental falls.
- Pneumococcal conjugate: This prevents pneumonia, otitis media, sinusitis, bloodstream infections, and meningitis. Vaccination with two groups of strains provides lifetime protection, over the age of 65.
- Herpes zoster virus: People 60 years old and older should get this vaccination to reduce the chance and severity of developing shingles. It requires only one injection.