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The elderly have different nutritional requirements than younger people and their needs will vary depending on many different factors. As you get older the muscle mass reduces, which leads to less muscle strength; the immune system decreases making them more prone to infections and illness; organ function slows which can lead to problems like constipation; increased risk of diabetes; dental problems which affect how they can chew food and finally a reduced sense of smell and taste making eating less appetising.

Other things can affect their ability to eat well are reduced mobility, increased bone loss, less money to buy food and loneliness.

The daily calorie requirements of the elderly reduce for men from 2550 at aged 59 to 2380 calories at aged 60-64 then 2330 from 65 to 74 and down to 2100 calories for the over 75’s. In women a similar drop in needs from 1900 calories at aged 51 to 74 and then down to 1810 at aged over 75 years old.

Research shows that up to 29% of people in residential care homes and 40% of those in hospitals were found to suffer from some form of malnutrition.

The Care Quality Commission or CQC is responsible for checking standards in residential homes and hospitals. They have recommendations to ensure the nutritional and hydration needs of the elderly are met. They state that a choice of suitable foods and hydrations are given in sufficient quantities to meet the service users needs. These foods and hydration need also to meet any reasonable requirements from a service users religious or cultural background. And finally, they must support service users to be able to actually eat and drink what is provided in sufficient quantities.

There are other bodies like Age UK and other charities that also offer support and advice to anyone caring for the elderly. We have put some links in the student resources section of this course.