Health, Nutrition and Safety for Boomers and Seniors

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Baby Boomer and Seniors

How you think about aging and your perceptions of what a person is like through each of the decades of mid-life through end-of-life will affect how you approach your own life. Chronological age is just one measure of how old you are.

With longevity having increased during the past decades, there has been a change in the way that adults perceive, and live, in mid-life and older adulthood. People are working past the retirement ages of 62 and 65; some people are enjoying a second career after retirement. Universities and colleges are seeing more older adults in classrooms and many older adults are starting or continuing sports such as running and weight lifting at a time in life when previous generations were content to travel or just enjoy their front porch.

There are some realities to the aging human body that none of us should ignore, but good health, balanced nutrition and an eye on safety will go a long way to ensure we remain vital for many years into retirement and beyond.

Your quality of life is closely related to your physical, mental and emotional health.
Your quality of life is closely related to your physical, mental and emotional health. | Source

Good Nutrition Helps You Age Gracefully

Nutritional Needs Change as You Age

Good nutrition is essential to obtaining and maintaining your optimal health. If you eat too many calories too often, you will begin to pack on the pounds; if you eat too few calories too often you may lack energy and vital nutrients. Too little protein can impair your body's immune system and cause muscles to waste. Too few carbohydrates and your body begins to use the protein in muscles as an energy source.

It's important to eat a well-balanced diet daily; vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients require regular replacement to ensure all of your cells are functioning as they should.

A daily multi-vitamin supplement aids in ensuring you are getting the major vitamins and minerals, but a vitamin alone isn't sufficient. There are many micro-nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber in food that a vitamin doesn't replace.


Nutrition Highlights At-A-Glance for Baby Boomers and Older Adults

Nutrition Factors for Mid-Life and Beyond
Diet Should Include
Vital nutrients
Calcium, fiber, vitamins A,C,D, protein, iron and folacin
Carbohydrates
60 percent of diet should be carbohydrates, especially complex carbs such as whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables
Fiber
Whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables are good sources
Water/Fluids
Drink at least 5 to 8 glasses daily
Fruits and Vegetables
Eat at least 5 half-cup servings daily

Physiologic Changes in Mid-Life and Beyond

Degenerative changes in muscles and bones begin around age 30. The amount of bone and muscle loss varies by individual condition, heredity and physical activity level. Good nutrition and regular, moderate physical activity aids in

After age 50, many people experience a decrease in their ability to smell and taste. This can impact your appetite; if so, experiment with different seasonings, make the food on your plate pleasing to your eye, consider trying new foods or different ways of cooking.

Bowel motility begins to slow down gradually as you age, which makes fiber an ever-increasing important component of your diet. High fiber foods are preferred over laxative use because the foods also provide important nutrients and because laxative use can interfere with nutrient absorption in the intestines.

The slowing of digested food moving through your intestinal tract also means that more water is absorbed through intestinal walls, an additional factor in constipation. Here again, fiber aids in solving the problem along with adequate fluid intake every day.

Gradually decreasing muscle mass can result in fat formation if calorie intake isn't adjusted downward or physical activity increased.

Physiologic Changes of Aging At-A-Glance

Body System
Changes in Aging
Senses of taste and smell
May decrease with age
Digestive system
Slower bowel motility
Digestive system
Decrease in digestive secretions; no change in enzymes
Muscles
Gradually declining muscle mass in skeletal, smooth and muscles that affect vital organ function
Bones
Decreased bone mass, particularly after menopause for women
Metabolism
Metabolism gradually decreases, meaning fewer calories are required
Body Mass
As metabolism decreases, there is a loss of lean body mass. Less body mass means less water is held in the body
Eyes
Eyes react slower to light changes with age
Eyes
After age 40, some eye muscles begin to atrophy and eye lens less elastic resulting in eventual nearsightedness
Hearing
Less than 20 percent of those age 70 to 79 years old have a hearing loss; slighty more than 45 percent of those 80 years and older have a hearing loss
Blood pressure
Blood pressure rises with age due to loss of blood vessel elasticity and narrowing of bood vessel lumens (arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis)
Blood pressure
Orthostatic hypertension is more prevalent in older adults, increasing the risk for fainting and falls
Kidneys
Blood flow to the kidneys decreases 10 percent per decade

Preventing the 5 Most Fatal Home Accidents

Mind and Body: Chair Yoga

Navigating Safely through Mid-Life and Senior Years

In addition to good nutrition and keeping yourself healthy, safety is a concern for baby boomers and seniors. Falls become an issue of concern, especially after age 65. Falls can be prevented by some simple measures, greatly reducing your chances of fractures.

Flexibility and balance tend to decrease over time, especially in those who live a sedentary lifestyle. Add to that the visual changes that occur with aging and you can see why falls are more likely to happen in older adults. Healing time for a fracture in later life is much slower than for younger adults and can result in further physical problems due to the decrease of activity while a fracture heals.

According to Texas A&M University's Family and Consumer Sciences department, one-third of Americans over age 65 fall each year. Falls cause 90 percent of the fractures that people over age 65 incur and falls are the leading cause of injury death in the same age group.

Becoming or staying physically active is one way to stave off some of the effects of aging such as loss of muscle and bone mass and increasing flexibility and balance. Most communities have a number of programs for exercise and physical activity for people of all abilities and interests.

Tai chi and yoga are two low impact forms of exercise that can be performed sitting or standing and are recognized as benefiting physical and mental health.

Fall Prevention Tips

 
Get some exercise
Keep vision sharp by getting an eye exam yearly
Be mindful of medications that cause dizziness and/or drowsiness
Install handrails and lights on all stairways
Use only step stools or ladders; don't stand on chairs
If you are having balance issues, use a cane or walker for stability
Wear shoes with non-skid soles
Before standing from a lying position, sit up for a few moments and take slow, deep breaths to avoid orthostatic hypotension
Avoid use of throw rugs unless they are anchored with a non-slip surface
An injury such as a broken hip from falling is sometimes the beginning of a downward health spiral.
An injury such as a broken hip from falling is sometimes the beginning of a downward health spiral. | Source

Falls in Older Adults Linked to Poorer Surgical Outcomes

Update: 10/2/2012: U.S. News & World Report provided information from a study performed at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center that reviewed post-surgical data on patients who had heart or colorectal surgery.

In the study of more than 200 patients, data showed that among those individuals, those who had sustained a fall within six months prior to surgery had either longer hospital stays post-op or incurred at more than one complication post-op compared to individuals who had no recent history of falling.

In addition to longer hospital stays, 59 percent of people undergoing colorectal surgery with a recent history of falls required institutional care after leaving the hospital compared to 4 percent of people having surgery without a recent fall history.

Average age of study participants was 74.


Bottom Line

There are many factors that affect how each of us ages, from heredity to environmental factors. Over those factors we have little control. What we can control is how we think, what we eat, whether we move or are sedentary.

We're fortunate to live in a time when there is much emphasis being placed in science and medicine about aging and the older adult years. We need to stay informed and use common sense to make each day be the best it can be for each of us as individuals.

Resources for Baby Boomers and Older Adults

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Comments 14 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, what a great hub, and so much info. I never knew that about losing your sense of smell slightly after fifty. And yes nutrition is so important too, wonderful and voted up! nell


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Hi Nell! Thanks for the read and comments. I think myself to be pretty well informed about aging, but I learned some new things while researching material for the hub. So glad you enjoyed!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

Wonderful and Most Informative Hub, L.L. Slowly and with Good Health is the way Lover Man and I are Aging. As I read your Hub, I'm Happy to say, we are on the Right Path. We walk practically EVERY day, when in Florida, we Swim...Exercise is So Important. Great Hub, thanks for sharing. My Votes of UP & Interesting go to YOU!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

b.Malin, it's great to hear that you and Lover Man are walking your way through positive aging. I'm right behind you in spirit.

I appreciate the read, kind comments and votes.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very interesting and informative hub, LL. I especially liked the charts where at one glance one can see useful details. It is very important to understand the changes that take place as we age as also know what to do to slow down aging.

Many thanks for sharing this wonderful and comprehensive article.

Voted up and across. Sharing and tweeting this hub.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Rajan jolly, thanks much for the read, comments and sharing.

I agree with you; when we know the effects of aging on our bodies, we are better prepared to make good choices.


healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

Very well researched and useful hub. I didn't know that there can be a decreased ability to taste and smell after 50. It is very important to focus on nutrition as people age because the immune system also becomes weaker. I now understand why my grandmother was always so afraid to fall since it impacts recovery time. Voted up and shared!!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Healthylife2, I think people of all ages tend to overlook the importance of nutrition. You are right on the money about the aging immune system.

In my experience as a long-term care nurse, a fractured hip was often the determining factor in nursing home placement -- not necessarily just because of the broken hip, but the confusion from hospitalization and a loss of ability to perform some activities of daily living.


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Very useful information to consider for those aging and those just wanting to live a healthy life. The fall and operations stats surprised me! Definitely something worth preventing in later life.

Shared, pinned, tweeted, up and interesting.


Gail Meyers profile image

Gail Meyers 4 years ago from United States

I enjoyed reading this informative hub. I read Breakthrough by Suzanne Somers a while back, which was a real eye opener. Nutrition, fiber (and hormones) are so important for all ages. Voted up.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Brett Tesol, the statistics are a bit daunting, aren't they? I recently learned that anywhere from 7 percent to a full one-third of people age 70+ who are hospitalized are discharged with a disability of some sort -- incontinence, loss of muscle strength -- those sorts of things. They didn't arrive at the hospital with those issues, but declined while hospitalized. It's eye-opening info, that's for sure.

Thanks for your read, comments, votes and thank you for Sharing.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Gail, appreciate your read and comments. It's a bit of a wake up call to realize our individual good health is really in our own hands, isn't it? In times past, people believed doctors held the key; they are really just one resource.

Thanks for the vote.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

What an awesome article, rich with details and information for aging folks. Like me! I feel better now. Wow, this should be a HOTD! Shared and all votes up.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 3 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Rebecca, high words of praise indeed -- thank you. This topic is one that lends itself to more and more information as there is new or updated research all the time. I'm happy to know you found this info useful.

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