Jack and Sheila asked that their last names not be used.
53 applemag.ca FALL 2018
feel less hungry—potentially leading to
And not getting enough to eat or
getting enough nutrition from the food
we eat can lead to even more problems.
Eating poorly can affect anyone’s ability
to live independently, Merrell says.
Our bodies need nourishment.
Without it, we lose energy and our
muscles, joints and bones weaken. In
turn, this can increase the risk of trips
and falls. Poor nutrition can also make it
hard for people to heal from injuries or
recover from illness.
When combined, malnutrition and
other health concerns can lead to
frequent doctor visits and longer stays in
the hospital, too.
Poor eating can even lead to long-term
or permanent effects. Three years after
his bout with illness and poor eating,
Jack still hasn’t regained his physical or
mental abilities. He can no longer play
bridge with friends, and he can’t make
the short walk from his home to church
or the grocery store anymore.
“Malnutrition is silent. It doesn’t jump
out at you,” says Sheila, Jack’s daughter.
“But it’s a serious issue.” |a
Jack was 93 when his health started
failing three years ago. At the same time
his appetite disappeared.
And that put him into a spiral that
makes healing harder: the sicker he felt,
the less he wanted to eat. And the less
he ate, the tougher it was to care for his
“Good nutrition helps us live full,
vibrant lives well into our senior years,”
says Amber Merrell, a registered dietitian
with Alberta Health Services in Barrhead,
“A variety of foods from each food
group helps gives us the energy and
nutrients that we need to continue
participating in activities that we enjoy.”
Close to half of Albertans who come
to hospital already are malnourished—
the clinical term for not getting enough
nutritious food or not getting enough
nutrition from the food they eat.
Reasons for that vary. Shopping and
meal preparation aren’t always easy as
we get older, Merrell says. And changes
in taste, smell, memory, dental problems,
depression and chronic illnesses such
as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease can
all make it difficult to eat, or make you
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO EAT
HEALTHY AS YOU GET OLDER?
Here are some suggestions from
Merrell and the dietitians at Alberta
• Eat protein at every meal to help
maintain muscle mass and help
recover from illness. Foods high in
protein include meat, eggs, milk, fish,
cottage cheese, soybeans, yogurt,
and fortified soy beverages.
• If you’re in a care facility or hospital,
ask for nutritious substitutes such
as a liquid meal replacement if your
appetite is low.
• Whenever possible, make mealtime
a social event to enjoy a shared meal
and create a welcoming environment
for healthy eating.
For tools and tips on staying
healthy and improving your
nutrition, go to ahs.ca and
search healthy eating to