Cooking and planned mealtimes are important to ensure aging adults are getting the nutrition they need. However, many roadblocks prevent that goal from being achieved. Here’s a look at some of the factors that create barriers for seniors to get proper nutrition.
The first thing is a physical disability. The most common kitchen problems faced by those with disabilities are standing and reaching limitations and issues with using one side of their body. Then there is the mental capacity side of things if the loss of memory is a factor.
Another factor is loneliness and social isolation because overall, the meals aging adults eat alone tend to be less healthy than those of seniors who eat with others.
Transportation also can create roadblocks for seniors, as shopping challenges can tie closely to the lack of getting the right kind of food. So many people have turned to online shopping during the most recent pandemic, but that new technology is often a hard concept to grasp for aged adults.
Another factor that could be affecting why a senior is not cooking at home is simply because there’s no joy in cooking anymore. Whether it’s a lack of motivation to cook for oneself or the desire not to create a mess, seniors may not enjoy cooking if they are alone.
Changes in taste buds can also create a barrier to healthy eating because as we age, taste buds die off starting around the age of 60. Often seniors will lose interest in food because it doesn’t taste the way it used to. This aging effect on the senses not only affects taste, but also smell, hearing, sight, and even their ability to touch or grab things which all start to decline with age.
Along with taste buds, seniors may experience a lack of appetite which is another common age-related issue that arises when metabolism slows down. Appetite loss could also be related to medication. Seniors might also want to adjust meals to fit their medication schedule.
People living on fixed or limited incomes may not be able to buy what’s ideal and seniors often are on fixed incomes. Every senior needs to plan out their grocery bill by first starting to decide how much they can afford to spend on food.
Because of limited financial resources, adults who are food insecure also may use coping strategies to stretch budgets that are harmful to their health. Examples of these coping strategies include engaging in cost-related medication underuse or non-adherence like skipping doses, taking less medicine, delaying filling a prescription, not taking certain medications with food; postponing or forgoing preventive or needed medical care; purchasing a low-cost diet that relies on energy-dense, but nutrient-poor, foods; watering down food or drinks; forgoing the foods needed for special medical diets (think diabetic diets); and making trade-offs between food and other necessities like housing, utilities, and transportation costs.
These issues are just some reasons why senior citizens might find it difficult to cook in their homes. That is why food programs like BEST, Meals on Wheels, Senior Nutrition Services, and others need to continue in our communities. It provides seniors with stability.