The dire need of the hour is for the nation to develop a robust ecosystem for the elderly population and take care of their dietary and health requirements.
The elderly population has been growing at a significant pace and will continue to do so in the times ahead as well. As per reports by the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India, there were approximately 103 million elderly people in India and they accounted for 8.6 per cent of the total population. It further points out that the senior community is growing at an annual rate of 3 per cent and the number is anticipated to rise to 319 million by 2050. This statistic depicts that both the share and the size of the aging population are rising exponentially over time.
However, what is important to be noticed, considered, and acted upon is for the country is to be prepared and ready to manage these proliferating numbers and to cater to the needs of the senior citizens.
In the present times, families taking the nuclear route, the increase in life expectancy, and greater dependency on the elderly for routine tasks pose a major challenge for the seniors. There is also a lack of a structured support system for them and the elders often end up facing neglect, ignorance, and abuse despite being surrounded by their loved ones. The dire need of the hour is for the nation to develop a robust ecosystem for the elderly population and take care of their dietary and health requirements.
Taking care of nutritional solutions for seniors
As we grow old, our body undergoes various changes. Be it weakening of bones and muscles, or development of certain medical conditions and psychological disorders, the body goes through a lot, and hence our nutritional requirements also undergo a shift.
It is important to understand the dietary changes of the elderly as they age and also create an awareness about maintaining their nutritional, health, and fitness levels as per their health and medical conditions.
Including essential vitamins and minerals in the diet
It is essential to include vital components like vitamins and calcium in their diet so as to strengthen their bones and muscles. Foods like milk, cereals, green leafy vegetables, fruits should be consumed by the seniors every day in moderate quantities to ensure that their nutritional requirements are met. Vitamin D and B12 should primarily be an important part of their diet and could be included in the form of supplements along with natural food sources.
Additionally, intake of potassium and fiber is a prerequisite to ensure that their gut stays healthy, the risk of diabetes is reduced as well as to prevent digestive and intestinal disorders and cardiovascular troubles. Hence, fresh fruits, vegetables especially beans and peas along with whole-grain cereals, etc. should be included in the diet of the elderly.
Incorporating immunity-boosting foods in the senior’s nutrition
Furthermore, considering the present times when strong immunity levels are essential for survival, we have to ensure that the nutritional breakdown of the seniors comprises of immunity-boosting foods like proteins in the form of paneer and legumes, Vitamin C by taking citrus fruits, pro-biotics in the form of yogurt, along with herbs, spices, nuts and seeds that consist of the essential micro and macro nutrients.
Intake of oily, spicy, adulterated, and processed foods are a strict no. They not only add up to the medical troubles but also harm the body rather than nourishing it.
Health-oriented solutions for seniors
Consumption of a balanced diet and a considerable quantity of water along with physical activity, in the form of walk or light yoga and meditation, is important so that they stay healthy and fit both physically and mentally. Additionally, constant monitoring of vital stats, be it blood pressure or diabetes, timely intake of the prescribed medicines along with avoiding stress, and provision of a happy and positive environment is critical to ensure that the seniors stay happy and healthy. What also needs to be understood and followed is to consult their concerned doctors and follow their instructions be it for nutrition, exercise or medication.
Not only do we need to change our mindset but we also need to promote the government’s policies and boost the firms dedicatedly working to upscale the senior care market in India via their medical assistance, new-age senior care offerings, financial aid, legal support, along with providing a good lifestyle, maintenance, and security to the senior citizens. To boost the health and nutrition solutions for the elder generation, the need of the hour is to develop a strong framework where government’s initiatives and privately owned senior living and care providers can collaborate and focus on the provision of holistic assistance and environment to the seniors so that they can stay happy and healthy as they age.
Dr Mamta Mittal, Founder, Seniors First, New Delhi