Aged Care Nutrition: Nutritional Requirements for Older Australians

Aged Care Nutrition: Nutritional Requirements for Older Australians

Eating right is important at every age. Arguably, the two stages of life when it’s most helpful are when you’re young and developing, and when you’re older. Healthy eating when you’re in your senior years is essential for maintaining your body and any good health habits you developed along the way to reaching this point.

Whether you’re an older Australian or someone who works alongside them, such as an aged care worker, keeping up with good nutritional practices should be a part of everyday life. What makes for good nutrition is largely common sense, but sometimes even the best of us slip up and fall into unhealthy routines. Not to mention, not everything to do with the best nutrition is necessarily well known.

Either way, following we have some nutritional tips that’ll help everyone, whether you’re young, old, or in-between. But especially for older Australians and the people who work with them.


General Rules for Good Nutrition

The first step to good nutrition for aged people is to engage with general good nutrition practices, those which are the same no matter who you are or what your age is. It’s simple, just follow as many of the following steps as you can.


Eat a balanced diet

Make sure your diet includes a wide variety of foods. Aim to include healthy foods from each of the five food groups (fruit, vegetables, grain, meat and dairy), so long as each is in line with your client’s health needs and personal preferences. 


Stay hydrated

Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Eight glasses of water daily if you can, but don’t over-hydrate. Limit sugary beverages and opt for water as your primary choice of hydration. 


Limit processed foods

Minimise consumption of processed and fast foods, as they can be high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium. Instead, opt for whole, unprocessed foods. 


Reduce salt and sugar intake

Limit your intake of foods high in salt and added sugars. Opt for natural sweeteners and use herbs and spices to season your meals instead of relying on excessive salt. 


Practice moderation

While it’s important to eat a healthy diet, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy treats and snack foods in moderation. Allow yourself occasional indulgences without feeling guilty, but always strive for balance and moderation in your overall food choices. 


Listen to your body

Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied, avoiding emotional or mindless eating. 


Seek professional advice

If you have specific dietary concerns or health conditions, consider consulting a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can provide personalised guidance and support. 


Two older people relaxing in lawn chairs in a beautiful garden.

The Importance of Good Nutrition for Older Adults

As you can no doubt tell, all the above information is pretty standard and straightforward. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, and that’s because there’s no big secret to eating healthy or maintaining a healthy weight. It’s all just common sense.

But why, then, does good nutrition matter so much for older adults?

Firstly, ageing can lead to changes in metabolism and nutrient absorption, making it crucial to consume nutrient-dense foods to meet the body’s requirements.

Secondly, a well-balanced diet promotes the maintenance of muscle mass, healthy bones, and overall strength, which are vital in preventing age-related issues like frailty and falls.

Lastly, a healthy diet supports a strong immune system, reducing the risk of chronic diseases commonly associated with ageing, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. 


Maintaining Good Nutrition for Older Australians

While general nutrition advice is important for older adults to follow to remain in good health, there are a few things that they should focus on. As the body’s nutrient needs change with age, it’s crucial to focus on consuming nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats to meet their increased requirements. You’re specifically interested in foods high in fibre, calcium, vitamin D and B12. 

Fibre-rich foods like wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables can help support digestive health and can aid in managing cholesterol levels. 

Sufficient calcium and vitamin D intake are essential for maintaining bone health. Dairy products, and leafy greens, are excellent foods for this. 

Older adults may have reduced absorption of vitamin B12, which is helpful for nerve function and red blood cell production. It’s advisable to include B12-rich foods like fish, meat, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals, or consider supplements if needed. 

It’s also important to address medication and nutrient interactions, as some medications can interfere with nutrient absorption or increase nutrient needs. Working with healthcare professionals to review medications and address any potential nutrient deficiencies is crucial for optimal health. A great way to ensure you are safely administering medication is to undertake an accredited medication administration course.


Avoiding Bad Nutritional Habits

As you can see, even when considering the needs unique to older adults, maintaining good eating habits isn’t too dissimilar to people of other ages. It just becomes more important. Likewise, avoiding bad nutritional habits works much the same for older people as it does for everyone else. If you’re a senior or help one with their diet, then make sure you avoid the following bad eating habits.


Avoid excessive processed foods

Try to limit your intake of processed and highly refined foods, as they can be low in nutrients and high in unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugars. 


Beware of excessive sodium intake

Be cautious of consuming too much salt or sodium, as it can increase the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Read food labels and opt for low-sodium alternatives. 


Limit sugar consumption

Be mindful of added sugars in your diet, as excessive sugar intake can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and increased risk of chronic diseases. Reduce consumption of sugary beverages, sweets and processed snacks. 


Minimise saturated fat

Limit foods high in saturated fats like fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products (low-fat milk is fine), fried and battered foods, and commercial baked goods. Also, try to avoid trans fats commonly found in processed snacks and baked goods. 


Be cautious with alcohol

Limit alcohol consumption and be aware of any potential interactions with medications or health conditions you may have. Excessive alcohol intake can have negative effects on health, especially in older adults. 


An older couple enjoying a romantic moment on a bench as the sun sets in the background.

Obligations for Aged Care Workers

Those working or volunteering in aged care facilities have certain legal and professional standards they need to meet for the care of their patients. This includes helping to maintain their nutritional health.

Both independent aged care workers and long-term care facilities must provide clients with a nourishing, well-balanced diet that meets their daily nutritional needs, as well as any special dietary needs, personal preferences, and cultural or religious preferences. Facilities must employ a qualified dietitian or other clinically qualified nutrition professional either full-time, part-time or as a consultant. If a dietitian is not employed full-time, there must be a qualified food and nutrition professional to serve as the director of food and nutrition services. 

However, not every aged care worker works in an aged care facility. Some work independently, and many work for one sole client, such as those who look after an elderly parent or loved one at home. While they don’t have the same obligation to have professional nutrition on staff, they are still bound by their duty of care to provide meals in line with their patient’s needs, personal preferences and cultural preferences. Failure to meet these needs not only negatively impacts the health of the client, but can also prevent the person in question from continuing to work in aged care.


Better Nutrition Begins Here

Any aged care worker who’s already employed in an aged care facility is already bound to their obligation to provide high-quality nutrition to their patients. But for any aged care workers who are independently employed, or for anyone who is thinking about taking on an aged care role to look after a loved one. Then it’s your responsibility to earn an aged care certificate so you can understand the full scope of your obligations. Thankfully, Skills Training College provides the qualifications in aged care you need to get started.

Understanding nutritional care for aged people is just one facet of looking after your patients. You also require the ability to recognise changes in your patient’s health, prevent and control infections, and so much more. Aged care is complex, so if you’d like to look after someone important in your life, then taking an aged care course today is your essential first step!