Diet in Old Age

A healthy, active, old person does not need any special diet. Familiar foods and eating habits are very important to their happiness and well-being. It is unwise to suggest changes unless there are very compelling reasons. There are, however, various circumstances which bring about changes in old people's eating habits, gradually leading to poor nutrition and a decline in health.

Among the causes are loneliness and unhappiness, which frequently lead to a disinclination to prepare proper meats. Old men who have not been used to doing their own catering frequently deteriorate in health when there is no one to look after them. The loss of teeth or poor dentures or removal of dentures for eating frequently lead to changes in eating habits, which are usually for the worse.

If these adverse circumstances can be righted and a better diet obtained, marked improvement frequently follows. The old person loses the apathy of the malnourished and becomes lively and happy again. Frequent attacks of indigestion will sometimes mean that certain important foods are omitted from the diet and no substitutions made.

Financial difficulties are another frequent cause of trouble. Rising costs of fuel and other expenses can lead to less being spent on food, and because it is difficult for the old to change their eating habits they tend to go without rather than to eat different and cheaper foods. In many cases they do not know how to adapt to reduced finances. Shopping and food-storage difficulties can also lead to a poor diet. The difficulty of buying small enough amounts of perishable foods is a very real one unless shopkeepers are sympathetic.

Foods for Feeding the Aged

Beverages. Any which are liked excepting alcohol.

Breads, Cakes, and Biscuits.
Any kinds, but they should not form too large a part of the diet.

Cereals. Any allowed. The 'use of some whole-grain, e.g. breakfast cereal, helps to prevent constipation.

Cheese. Mild Cheddar and processed cheeses grated or melted in sauces or soups are best. Cottage cheese is easy to eat and digest. Of all the protein-rich foods, cheese is best value for money.

Condiments. Well-flavoured foods are enjoyed by old people, but don't overdo it or indigestion may result.

Eggs. 3 to 5 weekly cooked any way. If they are hard-boiled it is advisable to mash them before serving.

Fats, Oils, and Cream. All in moderation. Margarine, butter, and cream are best because of the vitamins they contain. Fish. Boned fish is safest, or canned. Soft roes make good snack meals and hilsha, tima, and sardines provide vitamins A and D as well.

Fruit. Fresh oranges or orange juice. Mashed ripe banana and soft fruits. Stewed or canned fruit, fruit juices, rose-hip syrup.

Meat, Game, and Poultry. Any except the very fat meats, such as pork, and rich poultry like goose and duck.

Milk. One of the most important foods. At least ½ litres daily for drinking and cooking. Evaporated or condensed milks give concentrated alternatives but skimmed milks are best avoided as they lack the vitamins found in the cream.

Old people who refuse to take milk drinks will often take milk puddings and soups made with milk or will use evaporated milk on cereals and puddings instead of cream. Preserves. Any kind they like.

Pudding and Pastry.
Milk puddings, jellies, ice cream, stewed fruits, custard, light sponge puddings are best. Avoid rich pastry and suet puddings.

Sauces and Gravies. Avoid the very fatty ones. Otherwise give any kind they like.

Soups. Any kind they like.

Sugar and Sugar Confectionery.
Any kind they like, but not too many sweets eaten between meals.

Vegetables. Potatoes and a green vegetable should be included every day together with any other kind they like.

Daily Allowance of Basic Foods

Milk. 1 litre or more. Not less than 250 ml.

Eggs. i daily, if possible at least 3 a week.

Meat, fish, and cheese. A good helping of at least one of these daily. Vegetables and fruits. Potatoes and at least one other vege-table or instead of the second vegetable have one orange or one tomato or blackberry juice or puree.

1 oz. of margarine or butter and some additional fat for cooking.

Bread. 2 to 3 slices, or more if the person is active and not obese.

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