Actions to support older adult nutrition and immunity
Maintaining the physical dimension of wellness during this COVID-19 pandemic is critical to active aging. Nutrition and immunity are two interrelated areas of health that are both important to the physical dimension. Older adults naturally face declines in nutrition and immune function as they age, but there are ways to help.
- Ensure older adults have access to the food they need. This is more essential than ever as older adults shelter in place at home. United States (U.S.) older adult community nutrition programs and federal food programs can provide important support. Recent federal legislation successfully increased both funding and flexibility for these programs. The International Council for Active Aging is a member of the Defeat Malnutrition Today Coalition and the Coalition offers details about these programs and more on a special COVID-19 and Older Adult Malnutrition page.
- Include immune-supporting nutrients as part of a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet is vital for people of all ages to promote good nutrition and help support and maintain immunity. There are certain key nutrients that can be particularly important for immunity but are often limited in an older adult’s diet. These nutrients include protein, the Vitamins A, C, D, E, and zinc. Check out good food sources for these nutrients and other nutrition and immunity recommendations in this infographic from the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute (ANHI).
- Help older adults stay hydrated. Good hydration benefits immunity in many ways from supporting the body’s natural ability to eliminate toxins to maintaining lymph production and keeping barrier membranes moist. Hydration is frequently a problem for older adults because they may have a decreased sense of thirst and ability to conserve water and also may have medical conditions or take medications that can impact their fluid balance. A recent ANHI infographic offers facts and tips on helping prevent dehydration.
More information on nutrition and immunity is available through a new ANHI Special Report, which includes a series of podcasts by Professor Nicolaas Deutz, MD, PhD on the impact of pandemics on older adults and the specific nutritional needs of COVID-19 patients. In the podcasts, Dr. Deutz of the Center for Translational Research in Aging & Longevity with Texas A&M University focuses on the recommendations and best practices the European Society for Clinical Nutrition & Metabolism (ESPEN) recently published for nutritional care to support improved outcomes in patients with COVID-19.
Mary Beth Arensberg, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND
Director Health Policy, Abbott Nutrition Division of Abbott
Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.