Home Posts tagged Older Adults
Senior Planning

Nutrition-minded Older Adults Should Heed These Tips

By Kimberly DaSilva with Carrie Taylor and Andrea Luttrell


Your nutritional needs change throughout your lifetime. Some physical changes may impact appetite, senses, and fluctuations in your digestive system. These changes may be due to aging, decreased physical activity, or in conjunction with prescriptive medication suppressing your appetite.

Having a decreased appetite may impact your intake of calories, essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins needed to maintain muscle mass and prevent unintentional weight loss. When it comes to appetite, decreased senses of smell and taste can also affect the enjoyment of your food’s flavor and aroma. For digestion, your gastrointestinal tract could become less mobile and more rigid — leading to issues including constipation, stomach pain, and nausea.

“Produce that freezes well includes tomatoes, corn, carrots, peppers, zucchini, and berries. High-water-content foods such as melons, cucumbers, lettuce, and eggplant should stay clear of the freezer.”

To overcome any decrease in taste and smell, get creative. Cook with spices; herbs; aromatic vegetables like celery, onion, garlic, and shallots; and savory sauces to engage your taste buds. Select higher-quality food; cook seasonal fruits and vegetables so they have a softer mouth feel in recipes like soups, stews, and casseroles; drink plenty of water; and reduce stomach irritants, such as alcohol, to overcome physical changes as well.

As you age, your nutrition may be affected by your social and financial situation versus physical. For example, your social circle may become smaller due to the loss of a spouse, family members, and friends. Living alone and cooking for one while eating on a fixed income can present challenges for some as well.

Not all is lost! Below are some tips when cooking for one on a budget.

Six Nutritional Tips for Older Adults

Older adults have unique nutritional needs.

Simple adjustments can go a long way toward building a healthier eating pattern. Follow these tips from the National Institute on Aging to get the most out of foods and beverages while meeting your nutrient needs and reducing the risk of disease.

• Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group to help reduce the risk of developing diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Choose foods with little to no added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.

• To get enough protein throughout the day and maintain muscle, try adding seafood, dairy, or fortified soy products, along with beans, peas, and lentils, to your meals.

• Add sliced or chopped fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks. Look for pre-cut varieties if slicing and chopping are a challenge for you.

• Try foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as some cereals, or talk to your doctor about taking a B12 supplement.

• Reduce sodium intake by seasoning foods with herbs and citrus such as lemon juice.

• Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help stay hydrated and aid in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Avoid sugary drinks.

Tip 1: Be a savvy shopper. Get the most out of your food budget and purchase meats and shelf-stable foods when they are on sale. And stock up on fruits and vegetables when they are in season.

Tip 2: Be an organized shopper. Plan meals in advance and create a shopping list from your menu. Buy store brands for the same quality items at a lower cost.

Tip 3: Freeze your meals. When cooking for one, a great option is to cook and freeze meals. To do this, make multiple servings versus just one. Divide quantities into individually sized portions and freeze for future ready-made meals. Planning portions also prevents waste and can save you money.


Freezing Inspiration

With cooler weather around the corner, plan for hearty soups, stocks, and quick casseroles. For example, take advantage of less-expensive seasonal fruits and vegetables and preserve their fresh-picked flavor by freezing them.

Why freeze? Freezing temperatures stop the growth of microorganisms while slowing the chemical reactions that break down food and reduce its quality. This makes freezing food perfect for enjoying the taste of summer for seasons to come!

Produce that freezes well includes tomatoes, corn, carrots, peppers, zucchini, and berries. High-water-content foods such as melons, cucumbers, lettuce, and eggplant should stay clear of the freezer. Avoid discoloration of fruits such as peaches, apples, pears, and apricots by tossing with lemon juice prior to freezing.

For the best flavor and texture, use ripe, non-bruised produce free of nicks. Most raw fruit freeze just fine without blanching.


Tips for Freezing

• Rinse and cut produce into the desired size.

• Blanch vegetables before freezing. Drop vegetables in boiling water for one to two minutes, then immediately transfer to an ice bath and chill completely to help stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry.

• Place fruit or vegetables in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Place in the freezer until the produce is frozen solid.

• Once frozen, pack into whichever freezer-safe container you prefer — a freezer-safe food-storage bag, a plastic container with an airtight lid, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. Avoid glass, as it can shatter and cause your food to become unsafe to eat.

• Leave only a half-inch to one-inch space at the top of containers. Reducing food’s contact with air will prevent ‘off’ flavors or freezer burn.

• Store sauces and soups in freezer-safe food-storage bags and lay flat on shelves to save space.


Tips for Storage

• Practice food safety when cooling leftovers. Cool to room temperature for no more than two hours, or one hour for hot summer conditions above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to avoid the risk of a foodborne illness. Putting hot food directly into the freezer creates condensation on the food, which can lead to freezer burn while possibly raising the temperature of the refrigerator. Although freezer-burned food may have off flavors, it will not cause you harm.

• Label foods with prepared, frozen, and use-by dates. Soups and stews with meat can be frozen for up to two to three months. Leftover meals can be frozen for two to six months, and fruits and vegetables can be frozen for up to one year.


Tips for Thawing

• Determine the quality of food after thawing. First, check odor, as some foods will develop a rancid or off odor when frozen too long. Discard such items. (Note: although some items may not look picture-perfect when frozen, they work exceptionally well in soups, stews, casseroles, and sauces.)

• Never defrost foods at room temperature. Use these three safe ways to defrost food: in a refrigerator running at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, in the microwave, or under cold running water. (Note: for foods thawed in the microwave or by running cold water, cook immediately after thawing.)


Tips for Use

• Enjoy frozen fruit as is, without cooking, for smoothies, flavoring plain yogurt, adding to sautés, and baking recipes.

• Vegetables can be cooked while still frozen and/or after thawing.

• Raw meat and casseroles can be cooked, or reheated, from the frozen state.

• Always reheat and/or cook foods to their recommended internal temperature, as verified with an instant-read food thermometer.

As you can see, any challenges that impact nutrition as you age can be minimized by incorporating a few new practices into your normal routine. Preserving nutrients and flavor of seasonal produce and your favorite recipes by freezing is a great way to control your food budget as well. Happy freezing!


Kimberly DaSilva is dietetic intern with Be Well Solutions. Carrie Taylor, RDN, LDN, RYT and Andrea Luttrell, RDN, LDN are registered dietitians with Big Y.

Senior Planning

Older Adults Have Plenty of Ways to Stay Physically Active

By the National Institute on Aging

There are lots of fun and simple ways to build exercise into your daily routine. It’s easy to come up with ideas for activities to do with your family and ways to stay active in all four seasons.


Spending Time with the Family

Being physically active with your family is a great way to stay healthy and make exercise fun. Whether you play team sports with the entire family or take brisk walks with your spouse, child, or grandchild, you’ll be rewarded with improved health and time spent together. Here are a few activity ideas for you to do with your grandchildren:

Infants and toddlers:

• Take them for walks in the stroller and rides on your bike. Don’t forget your helmets.

• Play games that get your bodies moving, like wheels on the bus, pretend we’re animals, and hide and seek.

• Sign up for baby yoga or exercise classes.

• Try baby-friendly swimming classes.

School-aged children:

• Walk to the park and push their swing.

• Jump rope together.

• Build a fort — indoors or out.

• Play catch, kickball, basketball, or soccer.

• Go swimming or biking together.

• Play a video fitness game together and see who wins.

Teens and young adults:

• Participate in activities that interest them. Try hiking, skating, or tennis.

• Go golfing or swimming. Invite them to join you in physical activities that require two people, such as tennis or ping pong.

• Ask them to help you in the garden or with heavy-duty household chores.


Be Physically Active Without Spending a Dime

You don’t need to spend a fortune to be physically active. In fact, you can be active in many ways without spending any money. You don’t need special exercise equipment other than comfortable walking shoes. Here are a few ideas to help get you moving for free:

• Make your own weights from household items such as soup cans or bottles of water.

• Try out free demonstration exercises classes at your local senior center or fitness center.

• Go for a hike in a park.

• Participate in community-sponsored fun runs or walks.

• Yard work such as raking, digging, and planting can keep you active.

• Make sure to drink water or juice after exercise.


Find Ways to Stay Active in All Four Seasons

Being creative about your physical activity plans and trying new forms of exercise can keep you motivated by preventing boredom. A change in seasons is an excellent time to be creative about your exercise routine and try something new. There are many ways to be active throughout the year.



• When your grandchildren visit, head outside to build a snowman together or go ice skating.

• Cold outdoor temperatures are an excellent reason to join a mall-walking group.

• Start the new year by trying out a fitness center — many offer New Year’s resolution specials.

• Give your heart a Valentine’s Day gift with dance lessons, such as salsa, tango, or belly dancing.



• As the temperatures start to get warm, get your garden ready for spring and summer. The lifting and bending you do when gardening are great for strength and flexibility.

• A bike ride is a great way to enjoy the warmer temperatures.

• Anything can be fun with upbeat music, including spring cleaning.

• Build your endurance and strength with a bike ride during National Bike Month (May). Remember your helmet.



• Swim laps or take a water-aerobics class. These are both refreshing once the weather gets steamy.

• Walking in the mall is a cool way to beat the heat.

• Now that the grandchildren are out of school for the summer, ask them to teach you their favorite sport or physical activity.

• Celebrate National Bowling Week the first week in August. Get friends and family together and challenge each other to a friendly tournament.



• If you’ve heard about the benefits of yoga but haven’t tried it yet, National Yoga Awareness Month (September) is a great time to find special events and trial classes for beginners.

• As the weather begins to cool, join an indoor sports league, such as basketball, handball, or bowling.

• Fall provides great opportunities for physical activity. You can take long walks to see the beautiful fall colors. Once the leaves have fallen, raking is good exercise.

• If you have holiday shopping to do, walk the entire mall each time you’re there.


Vulnerable Population


When people think about cybersecurity threats, Stephanie Helm said, they often think only about the technical side — the ways in which electronic devices can be compromised and data stolen.

They sometimes forget about the human side of the equation — but that’s where older adults are often especially at risk.

“There’s a technical vulnerability that can be exploited, whether it’s somebody’s password, exploiting a vulnerability because they failed to update the device to include a patch, or maybe they’re using an unsecured WiFi when they’re in a public location,” said Helm, director of the MassCyberCenter. “So there’s a technical component that everyone using the internet is facing today.”

Just as critical, however, is what she calls the “social engineering of the individual,” where a victim willingly divulges information based on the fact that somebody’s engaging them in a personal way.

Stephanie Helm

Stephanie Helm

“These are professional people who know how to hit those emotional buttons and continue that relationship with the hope that somebody is going to divulge information.”

“Older folks might not have the comfort level with the technology to secure their information,” she said, “and they may be more vulnerable to the social engineering.”

Helm shared these thoughts and others during a webinar presented last week by LeadingAge Massachusetts, titled “Cybersecurity: Helping Older Adults Stay Safer on the Internet.” She joined Rubesh Jacobs, managing director of 24/7 Techies USA, and Judy Miller, director of Technology and Accounting for Kendal at Oberlin in Ohio, to discuss the reasons seniors are increasingly falling prey to online and e-mail scams, and what can be done about it.

“The number of scams leading to financial loss has been dramatically increasing since 2019,” Jacobs said, citing a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report that the number of online scams tripled between 2019 and 2020, outpacing phone-call scams — which actually declined slightly — for the first time. Meanwhile, e-mail scams more than doubled.

“The acuteness of that spike is shocking,” he added. “We’ve also noticed this trend in our own call centers; 28% of calls we get for help are somehow related to fraudulent activities online.”

According to the FTC, Americans age 60 and up are falling prey to tech-support scams — in which someone poses as a computer technician to gain remote access to the victim’s computer — about 475% more often than those ages 20 to 59. (By contrast, the younger group falls victim to online-shopping scams 60% more often than seniors.)

“Senior citizens are really in that nexus where a criminal can get at them through technical means, or they can get at them through social engineering” — and often a combination of both, Helm said. “The protections you put in place have to look at both of those aspects because you’re not quite sure which of those things a person might be most vulnerable for. I think that’s really troublesome.”

Judy Miller

Judy Miller

“Seniors lose an average of $500 or more when they’re scammed, sometimes due to the fact that they are often trusting and polite, they own their own home, and they have good credit, so they make a good target.”

Effective cybersecurity, she explained, considers people, processes, and technology working together to make someone more resilient and likely to recognize scams.

“The components of social engineering are worth thinking about,” she added, noting that a scam might begin with a realistic bot, either on the phone or online, that shifts over to a live scammer if the victim responds.

Those victims, Helm said, are often lonely and want to talk to someone, or they’re trusting and grateful that someone wants to help them solve a problem, which is why scammers try to establish trust.

One reason for the recent spike in cases is that many older adults were much more isolated starting early in 2020, with family members avoiding most visits until after COVID-19 vaccinations arrived, she noted. But families do need to engage with these topics. “Having an ability to ask questions or to talk about things they’ve been presented with in a safe manner is really important.”

But seniors are far from the only victims, Helm said. “If they continue the engagement, these are professional people who know how to hit those emotional buttons and continue that relationship with the hope that somebody is going to divulge information.”


It Takes a Village

Miller has worked for Kendal Corp. for 28 years, so she’s seen these threats evolve at her own facility, which offers units for independent and assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing.

“Seniors lose an average of $500 or more when they’re scammed, sometimes due to the fact that they are often trusting and polite, they own their own home, and they have good credit, so they make a good target,” she explained. “They have also been falling prey to cyber incidents because of their increased use of the internet.”

Scams that have targeted her residents have taken many forms, from imposters posing as legitimate government agencies or companies requesting payments to fake but attractive offers for gift cards, and much more. Most originate from e-mail, she noted.

When Jacobs asked Miller how often she hears such things, she responded, “it’s almost more important how much we don’t hear about them.”

To make sure people stay educated, if she hears of a scam targeting a resident, all residents are alerted, and some tech-savvy residents will even spread the word themselves if they encounter a scam attempt. “It’s really engaging the entire community to help each other in preventing some of those things from happening.”

Once a scammer gains someone’s trust, Helm said, they often introduce an element of urgency — the idea that the victim has to act now to get a deal or avoid a penalty or legal trouble.

“We should talk about how these scams exist and give senior citizens the confidence that they can recognize when this doesn’t make sense and avoid that sense of urgency to act, because that’s where you make a mistake,” she explained. “It’s perfectly acceptable to say, ‘I do all my business by mail — put a letter in the mail to me, and I’ll respond to you.”

But it’s easier said than done, she admitted, especially at a time when many seniors — and younger people, for that matter — have been more isolated than usual.

“I think it’s difficult for anybody in society to be fully armed and resilient. I feel if people become isolated in their old age and are not as familiar with some of the technology, they can get intimidated. So this is an area where we’re trying to see if we can be more helpful to them.”

Family members can help educate their older loved ones by asking gentle but probing questions about what may be going on, the webinar participants noted, and encourage residents of senior-living communities to call an administrator if they encounter a suspicious e-mail or think their information may have been compromised. And, of course, they should emphasize the importance of protecting passwords and other sensitive information, not clicking suspicious links, and shopping only at reputable, well-known websites.

“If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true,” Helm said. “I like to talk with senior citizens about having confidence in the skeptical skills they had throughout life. These are scams that happen to be on a computer, but they’re scams we grew up with since we were kids — bait and switch, or acting like an imposter.”

She takes a broad view of threats, having served in the U.S. Navy for 29 years. After her retirement as a captain, she taught military operations, specifically on integrating cyberspace operations into wargames.

“That was an opportunity to talk about how cybersecurity or cyber operations can affect operations that you traditionally would not think they would impact,” she explained. Now, in her role with the Mass Cyber Center, she knows there are few areas cybersecurity doesn’t impact — and that older Americans are often especially at risk.

“Today,” she said, “we all know this has great consequences to our daily lives.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]