Nutrition and Seniors: Eating Together for Healthy Aging

The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Seniors

Eating a balanced diet is essential to stay as physically healthy as possible, live an active lifestyle and maintain an ideal weight. For seniors, a good diet provides a variety of additional benefits, like building stronger bones and teeth, better cognitive function and memory, aiding in digestion issues, and simply keeping all the systems in the body working as they should.

However, seniors need the essential nutrients and vitamins found in healthy foods possibly more than any other age group. This is due to the fact that throughout the aging process, eating habits and nutritional needs change and metabolisms start to slow down. When the metabolism slows, activity levels also decrease, leading to the body needing fewer overall calories. Side effects from medications may also cause a lack of appetite, making even favorite foods seem unappealing. Many seniors also have oral problems related to their dentures or they may have trouble swallowing, both of which could make eating difficult.

Because of these reasons and a variety of others, seniors may start to skip meals or make poor food choices that can negatively affect their quality of life. Plus, proper senior nutrition habits aid in decreasing the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

The Downsides to Eating Alone

In today’s fast-paced world, the average American family no longer spends time together at the dinner table, enjoying a meal and talking about the events of the day. People live hectic lifestyles and are constantly on the go; however, there are some definite drawbacks to this lack of family togetherness. Studies show that families who don’t eat together generally have poorer nutrition habits, and these habits lead to problems like obesity or behavioral trouble in school.

For seniors, enjoying a meal together can be even more vital. Seniors who eat alone also tend to have poor nutrition habits, which could not only lead to malnutrition but could also compromise the immune system. Malnutrition leads to other problems like undesired or unintentional weight loss, weakness that can lead to a debilitating fall and broken bones, or even depression.

Plus, a recent study reported that one in five seniors feels loneliest when eating alone. It could be that family and friends don’t live nearby, or perhaps they can no longer safely drive themselves to enjoy dinner outside of the home.

How Eating Together Improves Senior Nutrition

However, that same study stated that having someone to share meals with also helps promote healthy eating for seniors. In social settings, seniors tend to eat more and make better food choices instead of turning to the pre-packaged or frozen foods they might choose out of convenience when eating alone. A warm, friendly environment that stimulates conversation throughout mealtime is almost as important as the taste of the food! Donna Stohl, a resident at Silver Maples since January 2009, says “The most beautiful thing about sharing a meal in one of our dining rooms is to see all the conversation and hear the laughter that is exchanged.  When I leave, I truly feel uplifted!  I take pleasure in so many wonderful people who live here.”

Today’s senior living communities recognize the impact a social mealtime has on overall nutrition for seniors and offer a remarkable dining experience. They not only have the opportunity to engage with other residents, but to also interact with the staff. The wait staff at Silver Maples are younger, generally of high school or early college age, and according to Chef Tom Zigman, “The residents just LOVE the energy that these young adults bring each and every day!”

Residents can choose from several well-balanced, nutritious options and enjoy eating with others in a restaurant-style setting that encourages social interaction. Christina Kim, Silver Maples’ Director of Marketing and Sales says “Genuine relationships between staff and residents grow quickly with an interest in each other’s lives, past and present experiences, and even challenges. It’s beautiful to see.” After all, being engaged and connected is what life is really about.

The Dining Experience at Silver Maples

At Silver Maples of Chelsea, residents enjoy including several entrée choices in either the The Trellis Dining Room, The Arbor Dining Room, Bistro 100 or the casual Courtyard Café. Made-from-scratch meals with fresh ingredients are created daily, with multiple options available to suit all taste buds. Our chefs ensure food is prepared properly and are happy to accommodate special dietary needs or restrictions. Find out more about the living options at our retirement neighborhood, or contact us today to schedule a personal tour.