Nutrition plays a key part in supporting the health, functional ability and quality of life of older people. A good nutritional status promotes an older person’s possibilities of living at home and speeds up recovery from illnesses.
As you age, your energy consumption is reduced because you might be less active and your muscles mass shrinks. This often also tends to reduce the amount of food you eat, and your intake of protein, vitamins and minerals may not be adequate.
As an older person's appetite may be poor, maintaining a good quality diet is even more important. A good quality diet for an older person contains sufficient quantities of energy (at minimum about 1,500 kcal/day) as well as plenty of minerals, vitamins and protein.
The diet should be versatile, tasty, colourful and sufficiently rich in protein to maintain muscular strength. It is advisable to use salt moderately and eat high-quality vegetable fats.
In order to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D, people aged over 60 are advised to take 20 micrograms of a vitamin D supplement all year round.
When ill, even a fit older person may rapidly turn into a patient who is at risk of secondary malnutrition. A model for providing multiprofessional nutritional care is described in the Nutritional care recommendations (only in finnish).
Older people may experience involuntary weight loss. Excessive weight loss is a risk factor for an older person's health. To avoid these risks, the energy and nutrient density of food can be increased by simple choices, for example by selecting dairy products with a higher fat content.
The drier the food you eat, the more you should drink. An elderly person needs some 1-1.5 litres or five to eight glasses of drinks every day. In addition to hydration, drinks may be good snacks and sources of nutrients.
Adequate and versatile exercise is important
Versatile nutrition and sufficient exercise will support your health throughout your life. Regular endurance exercise, together with training that develops muscular strength and balance, maintain the functional ability of an older person and prevent falls. Older persons should exercise regularly, preferably every day, for example go for a walk. They are also advice to do exercises that build up muscular strength and improve balance at least twice a week. Many different forms of exercise are offered for older people today, from instructor-led groups to exercises that you can do at home.