More people are eating alone today than they did before. Seniors specifically might eat alone more than most.
Eating alone can be good for confidence but too much of it can be difficult. Changing recipes from 2 or more servings to just one can be a downer. There is no conversation over dinner and watching TV becomes the only interaction at meal times.
Since changing recipes can be time consuming and they might not always turn out, easy and pre-made or frozen meals become the meals of choice. They’re easy, quick and unfortunately, don’t always meet the nutritional needs of seniors.
A lot of seniors stay very active and there are those who are unable to do the same. Many seniors don’t have the energy, ability or desire to make and prepare meals. Some seniors may not spend any time in the kitchen or they might be unable due to injury or physical limitations.
10 Tips to Help Encourage Eating
- Make it fun! Add flowers to the table, use nice place-mats and dishes.
- Pack a picnic for one of New York’s beautiful parks
- Switch it up! Have breakfast for dinner
- Encourage a loved one to attend a meal at a senior center
- Join a walking group. Meals are often shared after walks are completed
- You and your loved one can start a potluck supper club
- Reconnect with friends and family by frequently having a meal together. Share the cooking by rotating who cooks each week
- Spend time cooking together and trying new recipes
- Make extra to freeze. Saving meals in single servings makes for an easy quick meal during the week. Label the meals and add simple reheating instructions to the outside of the container.
- Make a list of what is in the refrigerator and freezer. This makes meal planning easier for your loved one because they know what their choices are.
Eating alone for an extended period of time can take its toll on seniors.
Not getting the proper nutrition can weaken the immune system which increases the chance of illnesses. An illness or infection can cause confusion and agitate already existing metal conditions. Seniors can begin to suffer from depression if improper nutrition persists. A symptom of depression is a loss of appetite causing the cycle to begin again.
Start by asking your loved one if they have any difficultly eating. Maybe it is hard to chew or swallow their food, or food has lost its taste or they don’t have an appetite. These could be signs of depression or side effects from medication. Look through their home and see what types of food they have. Has anything expired? These can all be good indicators that your loved one might struggle eating alone or it might be something more serious like depression. It’s good to communicate with your loved one for solutions. Ask if they would prefer you to do the grocery shopping or if they would like to do it together. Ask the same for cooking. Would they like you to do the cooking or would they like to do that together?
There are more options available. Many deli’s and grocery stores offer precooked and pre-pared meals. Most of these meals are single servings which is particularly convenient for those who live alone. Another option is found in the freezer section. Frozen packages of pre-cut meat and vegetables can be used for stir-fry. Pre-cooked chicken can be another helpful solution. One chicken could last a few meals. If flavor is missing add seasoning to flavor foods.
Mix Up Your Palate, Try Using:
- Olive oil
Eating alone is not natural for us because it is a social activity. Finding ways to include social interaction while eating can help to reduce depression. It can improve mood and can build new relationships. Make eating and cooking fun by trying new types of food and cooking new recipes. Keep your loved one healthy through adequate nutrition and continued encouragement.
Being elderly and living at home can be challenging. Alvita Care can help with preparing fresh & nutritious meals, contact us to schedule a caregiver visit to make sure your loved one isn’t eating alone.