Nutritious food is one of the mainstays of health, yet most food served up in the care sector for older people (including hospitals) is not close to what experts recommend. But we also have to balance this with knowing that older people are likely more fans of a traditional dinner than a green smoothie! The media gives conflicting advice on nutrition, but actually the further up the expertise ladder you go, the more consistent the information: fresh, (mostly) plant-based, organic and with little oil or refined sugar. Baked pears (Minimalist Baker) are an ideal dessert for seniors: enjoyable, seasonal, easy-to-digest and packed with nutrients.
In care homes and nursing homes, you have to figure in other factors like medication (many people can’t eat lots of dark green leafy veggies or grapefruits, due to interactions with vitamin K), allergies, digestion, even no teeth (or seedy fruits that could get stuck in them). Others may have to have food mashed, to prevent choking. If older people live with pets, keep toxic foods away from them.
Although some older people are trying to lose weight, many older people need higher calories to keep their weight up, especially if they are recovering from illness. Older people often also have smaller appetites (often due to depression). For people with coordination or cognitive issues, no-spill cups and dementia-friendly tableware can help, as can jelly drops (naturally coloured ‘water sweets’ to hydrate people who forget to drink water – some patients with dementia are terrified of running taps).
Vegetarian for Life offers free meal plans for care homes looking after vegan/vegetarian residents, with help for owners and caterers. It also has downloadable guides on making texture-appropriate meals (if chewing is difficult) to where to find home-delivered meals for seniors (and it’s not Wiltshire Farm Foods, whose veggie range includes ‘omelette, chips and beans’ and a meal cheeky enough to charge over £5 for a plate of pureed pasta, pasta and tomato).