© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
The scientific research on healthy ageing is clear. We must eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to maintain our energy levels, muscle strength and a healthy weight.
Whether we like it or not, various factors are in decline as we age. Amongst them is a reduced metabolic rate due to less energy expenditure and reduced muscle tissue production bringing about a decrease in skeletal muscle mass and strength.
It's not surprising that research reveals that living alone, which many older Australians do, is associated with poorer and less varied diets. The result is malnutrition and undernutrition.
General Practitioners across the country are being encouraged to look out for the symptoms such as sudden weight loss. One study shows that around one in 10 older Australians eligible for government in-home care services are malnourished. Another states that up to 44% of older Australians are at risk of undernutrition.
When illness strikes or a bone is fractured, some of us simply will not have the nutritional reserves to help us recover quickly and fully. Often, this sees the commencement of the spiral of decline.
Dietary guidelines for older Australians
There are four dietary guidelines that the Australian Government encourages older Australians to follow.
- Eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to help maintain muscle and bone strength and a healthy weight.
- Gain nutrition by eating from each of these five groups every day:
- Plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours. They can be fresh, frozen or canned. Eat more dark green vegetables such as leafy greens or broccoli, and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Fruit and in particular berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries).
- Grain food, in particular the wholegrain and high fibre varieties of bread, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley.
- Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans.
- Servings of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives. Women over 51 should consume four serves of dairy per day, men aged 50 to 70 should consume two and a half, and men over 70 - three and a half serves per day. And drink plenty of water. Aim to drink at least one glass of water six times a day.
- When purchasing groceries, check the ingredients label and limit consumption of products lacking nutrition.
- Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meat, commercial burgers, pizza, friend food, potato chips and other savoury snacks. Replace high saturated fat foods, such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil, with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated alternatives.
- Limit salty foods such as cured meats, smoked salmon, ham, corned beef, bacon, sausages, salty snack foods, and soya sauce.
- Limit sugary foods and drinks.
- Limit intake of alcohol to no more than two standard drinks per day.
- Prepare and store your food safely.
Buying and preparing nutritious meals, particularly when one lives alone, involves a great deal of energy and the routine can be tedious for those who have been doing it for 50 plus years.
Help is available for those Australians finding it increasing difficult to get to the shops and prepare meals.
The Commonwealth Home Support Programme, funded by the Australian Government, is a free home support service for eligible older Australians. Its aim is to help Australians remain in their own home, live independently and keep safe. There are also other options such as making your own private home care arrangements.
Should you have any concerns around your weight or diet or your loved ones' weight or diet, a dietician or nutritionist can assess the person and provide a plan. This assessment can often be covered under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.
If you or your loved one need support with shopping and meal preparation and seek advice on home care support solutions and the subsidies available, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
At DR Care Solutions we specialise in making sure you have the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.
 Australian Dietary Guidelines: providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets, February 2013, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.
 Bond University Study: one in ten older Australians eligible for government in-home care services are malnourished.
 The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Study: up to 44% of older Australians are at risk of undernutrition.
 My Aged Care Commonwealth Home Support Programme.