Nutrition and physical activity continue to be important as we grow older. A healthy combination of good food and exercise can delay or even reverse many of the problems associated with ageing, helping older New Zealanders to continue living independently and enjoy a good quality of life.
To help you feel at your best:
Nutrients that older people need more of
There are some nutrients that older people actually need more of compared to people in younger age groups. It can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need if food intake is small, so having at least three meals plus snacks in between and keeping an eye on any weight changes is important. Older people need more:
For further information check out Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand
Other nutrients of importance:
While the recommended daily intake for the following nutrients is not greater for older people, it’s very important to make sure you are getting enough of them:
If you think you might be going short of any of these nutrients, or want to avoid eating any specific foods, ask your doctor, registered nutritionist or dietitian for advice.
Cooking nutritious meals for one or two people does not need to take a lot of time or effort and there are many ways to minimise waste.
It is important to maintain a good weight as you age. However, eating alone, ill-fitting dentures or poor teeth, illness, difficulty shopping, being on a tight budget and some medications are factors that can leave you without much of an appetite. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian if you are concerned you aren’t eating or drinking enough, or if you are losing weight.
The environment in which we eat affects our appetite. If you are preparing meals for someone who is not eating well, consider the following:
Normally people have between 1 and 3 soft, easy motions each day to 1 every other day (Ministry of Health. 2018). Having difficulty passing bowel movements is constipation.
Constipation can be caused by certain medications, not being very active, not drinking enough or not eating enough high fibre foods.
If constipation persists, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Your level of activity will depend on your fitness levels and mobility. Talk to your doctor if you are just starting to exercise if you have frail bones or any other issues that may affect your ability to exercise. Exercise is also important in helping maintain your balance as you get older, and reduce the risk of falls.
An easy way to get moving is by adding more activity into everyday life. Walk wherever you can, rather than driving. Gradually increase your activity as fitness improves. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate activity most days.
Find something you enjoy, to keep you motivated. Here are some ideas:
Read the Ministry of Health fact sheet for more ideas on how to keep active. Also check out your local recreation or leisure centre, church or community group for other ideas and activities in your area.
Association, A. D. (2016). 8. Pharmacologic Approaches to Glycemic Treatment. Diabetes Care, 40(Supplement_1), S64-S74. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc17-S011
Ministry of Health (2018) Constipation. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Ministry of Health (2013). Physical Activity for Older People. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Last reviewed: 21/06/2022
Last modified: June 20, 2022