By: Talking Nutrition Editors
The United Nations has designated the 1st of October as Day of Older Persons. According to the UN, nearly 700 million people around the world are currently over 60 years of age. By 2050 that number will increase to 20 percent of the world’s population, or approximately two billion people, with Asia housing the majority of the elderly. (1)
This population has its own health and wellbeing needs, which must be considered in terms of the delicate and vulnerable position in which many of the elderly find themselves. Often older individuals can become susceptible to malnutrition based on a number of biological and non-biological (e.g. lifestyle preferences) factors.
Ageing is inevitable, but its ensuing complications can and should be the focus of greater medical and nutritional innovation. We must shift from a focus on maintaining life to a focus on enabling and empowering a greater quality of life for older people. For them, this tends to mean a combination of greater nutrition, physical activity, mental stimulation and social contact.
A DSM-commissioned survey interviewed 22 elderly people across three markets and found the loss of appetite to be the biggest challenge when it comes to the elderly meeting their nutritional needs. This was driven by complex factors such as old habits, limited and unappealing options, loss of the ability to chew, swallow or feed oneself, or simply a refusal to eat as a means of control.(2) In addition, some elderly individuals can experience nutritional frailty, which is linked to malnutrition, most commonly through muscle health.
Family and caretakers are often the first to notice these signs and many turn to medical nutrition for help. However, compliance tends to be low. Offering avenues for the elderly to exercise choice and control when it comes to their food options, can often be a way to encourage eating.
Medical nutrition is designed to address macro- and micro-nutrient deficiency in the elderly. Key micronutrients include B vitamins, vitamins D and E, omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]), dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium, as well as carotenoids like lutein and macronutrients like protein. All of these nutrients hold great potential in health areas that may prove beneficial in the elderly when meeting the recommended levels.(3) For instance, research has shown that these nutrients may support heart, eye and brain health, as well as bone health and immunity.(4)
To appeal to senior consumers, nutritional solutions must be available in a range of dosage sizes, delivery formats, flavors, textures and nutritional values. It also helps to make oral nutritional supplements as easy as possible to integrate into meal times and to capture nostalgic tastes and textures in order to increase “foody” appeal.
Healthy aging – where the emphasis is on quality of life – must include a concept of nutrition where solutions are bespoke to the needs and lived realities of the elderly. Nutrition for senior consumers must take into account their need for social engagement and physical activity and offer solutions that are both easy to consume and encourage an active, social life.
To support medical nutrition brands in growing their offering, DSM offers nutritional ingredients, customized premixes and expert solutions to help navigate the journey to creating appealing nutritional solutions, by getting to the root of what senior adult consumers are looking for.
01 October 2019
2 min read
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2. Consumer survey commissioned by DSM, 2018
3. DSM_Healthy Aging_Whitepaper global_June 2018_LR.
4. J. Shlisky et al., ‘Nutritional considerations for healthy aging and reduction in age-related chronic disease’, Advances in Nutrition, vol. 8, 2017, p. 17-26.; 2017.