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Senior Nutrition - Get an Elderly Person to Eat Better

Updated on November 15, 2009
Improve nutrition
Improve nutrition

My mother is 89 years old and a widow, so she gets little enjoyment from cooking meals and eating alone. Instead, she frequently makes her main meal from a bowl of cereal and milk. While this is okay for breakfast, it will not provide the balanced nutrition that is so important for elderly people if relied on for lunch and dinner as well.

Since I cannot monitor her eating habits all the time, I have developed these strategies to ensure my mother eats three nutritious and appealing meals a day.

Make a little extra

 When I cook for my family I often make a little extra, package it, and put it in the freezer. Then, when I go for my weekly visit with my mother, I bring the meals with me. She puts them in the freezer and reheats them in the microwave when she doesn't feel liking cooking. I don't bother to label the packages anymore because she says she likes to be surprised!

Eating out

During my weekly visits with my mother we always go out for lunch. I make sure to order a large entrée, or go to a restaurant that offers seconds. (The Olive Garden in our area is famous for offering seconds on bread, salad, soup, and their refillable pasta bowl). I never finish all my meal and neither does my mother. We both get a box for the leftovers and, since she eats very little, we leave with two ready-made meals.

Senior luncheons

The senior center near my mother's home provides a hot lunch five days a week for $3.00. While she refuses to go every day, I have set up a standing order for the local paratransit to pick her up and take her to the luncheon every Tuesday.  She gets a good, nutritious lunch and also has some company.  Unfortaunately, many senior lunch programs are being shut down, victims of the bad economy and lack of funding. 

Trips to the market

My mother depends on me to take her to the market so I make sure she gets all the items on her list. I also make suggestions if she does not seem to be buying a healthy variety of foods. "Look mom!  These oranges are on sale" or "Progresso Soup is buy one, get one free. Might as well get two". Being very thrifty, she also loves to check out the clearance sale at the butcher shop. I help her find the cuts of meat that are marked 30% to 50% off. She gets a bargain and I know she has a good protein source for at least one meal because she will not let food go to waste.

Cooking parties

When the weather gets colder she and I have cooking parties. I bring recipes for easy, one-dish meals and we both shop for the ingredients. She sits at the table and does the chopping and peeling, and I do the mixing and cooking. We generally make 3 or 4 meals and package them for the freezer. She thinks she is helping me get meals together for my family and it makes her feel useful. But the end result is she also has an extra 3 or 4 meals for the week.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is a wonderful national organization that provides nutritious meals to people who are homebound or disabled. Most chapters deliver at least one meal (lunch) per day, on weekdays. Some deliver a daily hot lunch and a cold dinner such as a sandwich and fruit. The meals remind me of what we used to get as kids at the school cafeteria. Nothing fancy, but warm and nutritious. Seniors are charged a small fee based on their ability to pay. This was a great service but my mother said she got tired of the food. This is probably to be expected, although I think the underlying problem is her Depression era cheapness!

Swap meals

My mother still lives at home, but I hear of seniors in retirement communities who participate in swap meals. They make extra food when they make a meal, and then swap it for the extra the neighbor made. This way the seniors don't get tired of their own cooking, get to try different recipes and cuisines, and also try a little harder with the meal preparation because they know someone else will be eating it!


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      Egypt 3 years ago

      It's posts like this that make surfing so much plseaure

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      Soheil 3 years ago

      Alright Brianna, I'm coming out of lurodkm for this one. (I'm a missionary kid who was born in Ethiopia. I found your blog when my husband and I were thinking about international adoption. I dream about adopting a sibling group from Ethiopia.)Anyway, menu planning...Here's what I do:1. Go to . (There are tons of recipes, a very helpful rating system, easy menu planning tools and it's free!)2. Type in search terms in the search box (like "vegetarian") or add more keywords to make it more specific (like "vegetarian beans").3. Once the list comes up, click on "Rating" in the "sort by" menu. Now you've got the highest-rated recipes (i.e. the most-liked by the masses and therefore the best bets) at the top of the list. (By the way, is their list of vegetarian recipes, sorted from the highest-rated to the lowest-rated.)4. Once you find a recipe that sounds good, click on it.5. Now click on "Read Reviews" and then sort that list by "most helpful." Now you'll find reviews like "This was a good recipe, but be sure to double the sauce, otherwise it's too dry."There's so much more...sign up for a free account and add recipes to your "recipe box" or add them to your "shopping list." So, menu planning is simple. Just browse through the recipes in your recipe box, add the ones you want to have that week to your shopping list and print. Now you're ready to go to the grocery store and you can print out the recipes you'll need too. Easy peasy. I'm an internet geek...I live for free stuff on the internet!...hopefully I have not totally overwhelmed you. :) By the way, I have no connection to It's just a personal favorite.

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      Phyllis 7 years ago


      All these ideas are great, but I'm dealing with an elderly man at the age of 108 and has very little medical problems but just won't eat. I've heard he's lived his life and just make him comfortable but he needs to eat to stay alive.His mind is good at most times and he makes decision but won't eat.We do manage to get him to drink some water. Is there someone who has any more ideas for this siuation?

    • MythiliK profile image

      MythiliK 7 years ago from India --> Switzerland

      I have hooked this article (suggested link) in my latest article about elderly people :-)

    • christinecook profile image

      christinecook 8 years ago


      All great ideas. What a wonderful daughter your mother has!I especially like the one where they make a bit extra and share with someone else. I know that would be a great encouragement for someone to put in a bit of extra effort.