Ageing Gracefully Series: Enjoying Food Into Your Later Years
With an ageing population around the world,1 this means a lot of adults are living with type 1 diabetes into their older years. to this means a lot of adults are living with type 1 diabetes into their older years. Whether you eat to live or live to eat, we know that older adults living with type 1 diabetes face certain challenges when it comes to nutrition.2 Ideally, you should be under the care of a dietitian and have access to nutritional education.2 However, in the meantime, here’s a little guide on nutrition and living with type 1 diabetes as you age gracefully.
Challenges In Meeting The Nutritional Needs Of Older People Living With Type 1 Diabetes
Not all health authorities have different recommendations for older people living with type 1 diabetes compared to younger people. However, in some situations, it may be necessary to modify the dietary recommendations for our senior citizens living with type 1 diabetes. This may be due to older adults having:2
- Lower amounts of lean muscle mass.
- A decreased metabolic rate.
- Lower overall energy requirements.
In addition to these physiological changes, single seniors may find it difficult to prepare and cook for one. This can lead to poorer nutrition.2
Research has identified that other barriers to good nutrition in older adults include:2
- Vision problems making it difficult to prepare food.
- Reduced mobility resulting in insulin resistance or difficulties in shopping for food.
- Swallowing problems leading to poor oral health.
- Financial concerns affecting choices when shopping for food.
- Depression and loneliness causing a loss of interest in food.
Top Tips To Keep Food Your Friend As You Age
Despite the challenges mentioned earlier, there are ways you can make nutrition continue work for you into your older years. Plus, it’s important to keep enjoying your food!
1. If you haven’t already, teach yourself the joys of carb counting. This allows you greater flexibility with your meals as you can adjust your insulin dosing accordingly.4 That way, you can continue to eat the foods you love!
2. Consider a healthy heart diet. Those living with type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.2 Though appropriate nutrition is only one part of managing this risk, it is an important part. A healthy heart diet consists of:2
- Salt intake of <6g/day.
- Two portions of oily fish per week.
- A variety of fruit and vegetables.
- A good quantity of wholegrains, nuts, and legumes.
- Less red and processed meats, processed or refined carbs, and sugary drinks.
3. Make food fun! Apathy and loss of interest towards food can be more prevalent as we get older due to a variety of reasons.2 If you find this lack of motivation leads to healthy nutrition dropping by the wayside, think of ways you can make food fun. You can:
- Try new recipes.
- Cook with friends.
- Eat with friends.
- Follow a diabetes-friendly meal plan online.
- Inspire yourself by watching cooking shows.
- Ask someone to choose a secret ingredient for you to make a meal of!
As an older person living with type 1 diabetes, it’s worth understanding how your nutritional needs evolve with age. If you need extra guidance on how to keep yourself fit and healthy, don’t hesitate to speak to your diabetes healthcare team.
- United Nations The Department of Economic and Social Affairs. World Population Ageing 2019 - Highlights. 2019. 1st ed. New York: United Nations, 1-46.
- Flynn C, Dhatariya K. Nutrition in older adults living with diabetes. Pract Diab. 2020; 37: 138-142.
- Diabetes UK. Older People and Diabetes. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/. 2021. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/older-people-and-diabetes. (Accessed December 2022).
- Diabetes UK. The Nuts and Bolts of Carb Counting. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/. 2021. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/carbohydrates-and-diabetes/nuts-and-bolts-of-carb-counting. (Accessed December 2022).