Senior Living: The Risks of Eating Alone

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

Eating alone isn’t easy. But it can be especially difficult for seniors. Your social life may have changed. You may have physical limitations that keep you inside. Food may not taste as good as it used to. Chewing and digestion may be difficult.

The Risks of Eating Alone

Eating alone can also be mentally and physically unhealthy.

We'll look at some of the surprising risks of going solo and ways to minimize those risks for a more healthy lifestyle.

The Risks of Eating Alone

When we eat alone, we usually don’t eat as well as we would with a partner. We are probably used to cooking for our mate or used to having mealtime conversation. Unless we talk to ourselves, this stops when we eat alone.

Many of us end up not eating balanced meals. We fix things that are easy and quick but that don’t provide the right nutrition. Or we skip meals because it’s easy to do so when it’s just you.

We also end up eating in front of the TV. This makes us less mindful of what we eat. Combine that with not having someone else around to keep us honest about our eating choices.

Eating improperly leads to a weakened immune system, loss of muscle and bone health, and loss of weight. And all of these factors can contribute to other issues like risk of falling and breaking bones. Plus, poor nutrition can lead to depression.

Eating the wrong things can make you gain weight, which can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Eating Alone & Eating Right

It may take a conscious effort at first, but eating nutritious foods will pay dividends in all parts of your life. You’ll have more energy and feel better about yourself. And you’ll be respecting your body. Try some of these simple suggestions for taking care of your heart:

1) To keep your cholesterol down, eat foods high in fiber like oatmeal, apples, pears, and kidney beans.

2) To keep your blood pressure down, eat fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Try herring, halibut, salmon and mackerel.

3) To keep your blood vessels healthy, eat nuts like almonds and walnuts.

More senior living good eating tips:

· Reduce sodium (salt): sodium increases blood pressure.

· Avoid unhealthy carbs: foods made with refined sugar, white rice, and white flour won’t give you the sustained energy of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

· Cook healthy: Steam vegetables and sauté other foods with olive oil.

· Eat fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned.


Daily caloric recommendations for Seniors

Women

1) Not physically active need about 1,600 calories

2) Somewhat physically active need about 1,800 calories

3) Very active need about 2,000 calories

Men

1) Not physically active need 2,000 calories a day

2) Somewhat physically active need about 2,200 to 2,400 calories

3) Very active need about 2,400 to 2,800 calories

Source: National Institute on Aging


Senior Living Tips for Eating

Eating right is only part of the equation. You should also make think about the time, place and process of eating. Here are some ideas:Senior Eating Alone

· Eat in a different location. Try your porch or patio. Go to a park. Mix it up.

· Set your table with placemat, napkins, and flowers. Listen to music.

· Start a supper club with friends

· Eat at your local senior living community center

· Ask your church about meal partners

· Invite a neighbor over for dinner

· Try new recipes

· Plan your meals for the week, and then go shopping.

· Go out to eat. Try new places often.

· Sign up for Meals on Wheels; have meals delivered to you.

“I tackled eating alone early on. And it was worth the effort. I didn't do anything magical or complicated. I finally just made myself sit at the table, no music, no TV, and pay attention to everything about the experience of dining alone.”

Sheila Weinstein on learning to eat alone after her husband of 50 years passed away. Source: Psychology Today

Summary

For many seniors, eating alone is often unavoidable. But doing so can create unwanted health problems. That’s why it’s important to avoid some of the traps. Make eating special not mindless and routine. Vary your eating location. Eat at your local senior living community. Try Meals on Wheels. And most important, eat healthy.

For more ways to live healthy, read "Aging Well: The Choice Is Ours."

Updated: Apr 08, 2011

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