Food, glorious food. I don’t know about you, but there are times I wish I didn’t have to bother with food. After spending a few decades on this big blue ball (and especially if you happen to have a contentious relationship with food), sometimes the last thing you feel like doing is grocery shopping, cooking or even eating. Ultimately, however, hunger and habit usually overcome this periodic ennuie with food. As seniors, there are often many other challenges that arise and interfere with maintaining a healthy way of eating. In order to explore some of these challenges, The Kamloops Connector contacted Interior Health and was put in touch with Rebecca. She is a registered dietitian who works at the Seniors Health and Wellness Centre in Kamloops.
“Our clinic focuses on engaging and empowering seniors and their families in the journey to improve their health, wellness, and quality of life. Seniors can access the Seniors Health and Wellness Centre by a referral from their doctor/nurse practitioner,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca helped explain some of the major roadblocks facing seniors as they age and some potential solutions:
Mobility: This can pertain to physically going grocery shopping or unable to drive and having to rely on public transit/family to get to the grocery store. If relying on public transit, this can limit the type/amount of food they can purchase.
Fatigue: Fatigue can often result in decreased ability to prepare healthy meals. I often see clients who have soup or just tea and toast for a meal as it’s easy to prepare but do not provide them with the energy they need.
Cost: Limited income paired with rising food prices can limit what a senior can afford to buy. Less nutritious foods tend to be more affordable, but is not always the case.
Cooking for 1 or 2/no appetite: I often hear from clients that it’s difficult to think of easy-to-prepare meals for cooking for one or two. People don’t typically want to eat the same food for a week at a time, and often don’t feel like preparing big meals for themselves or are unable to. Some quick suggestions are: getting together with your neighbours and share meals and/or buy in bulk to save money.
Having low appetite is common in seniors and it may have to do with decreased mobility so they aren’t burning as much energy or because low mood is impacting their appetite. For these seniors, I suggest trying to get out in the community with activities/exercise groups they enjoy doing unless told otherwise by their doctor. If low mood is a concern, seniors can self-refer and access services at Elderly Services Program through Interior Health. (250-377-6500)
Medical conditions: Seniors may have multiple chronic diseases with varying guidelines regarding which foods to eat and which foods to limit. This can be confusing at times due to all the mixed messages about food.
Mouth Care: A senior’s ability to chew their food can greatly impact what foods they choose to eat and how much they eat. This could be due to teeth being in poor condition, having no teeth, or ill-fitted dentures. Rebecca elaborates on some of the resources available in our community that help address the various challenges faced by seniors when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.
A few of Rebecca’s favourite community resources include the Mount Paul Community Food Centre on Laburnum Street. This centre is through Interior Community Services and offers a variety of cooking programs including Foodie Friday. Foodie Friday is drop-in cooking class from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., where people cook together as a group (tasks are adapted for what each person is capable of doing) and eat together as a group. The centre also offers cooking classes such as Food Sense, Sensational Soups (soup served Mondays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.).
Seniors with limited accessibility are able to get a food hamper delivered once a month, which is a program partnered with the Kamloops Food Bank. The Food Bank also has allocated hours for seniors to go, which can help make the process much less stressful. Interior Community Services also offers the Better at Home shopping program, which can help seniors go get their groceries. Other resources in the community include the New Life Dental Clinic, a not-for-profit dental clinic that functions to serve low-income individuals—this can also include dentures.
There are a couple of frozen meal services including Better Meals which can provide soup, entrée, and dessert for $7.50. Better Meals is based out of Burnaby, but delivers to Kamloops either Tuesdays or Thursdays depending on where you live in the city. Meals on Wheels is a meal program that offers meals as low as $6.50, and is organized through Interior Community Services. “Take and Bake” are meals offered from the Centre for Seniors Information Centre in Brock as well as at the Seniors Information Centre in Northills Shopping Centre. The “Take and Bake” meals do not deliver, but are another great local option when it comes to prepared meals.
Rebecca suggests that the best and easiest way to ensure that one is making good food choices is to consider the healthy plate model, which is what the new Canada’s Food Guide looks like.
“Aiming for half your plate with vegetables or fruit, a quarter of your plate with whole wheat grains, and a quarter of your plate with a protein source—if we can make simple changes in our diet to work towards the healthy plate model, it will be more beneficial on our health when compared to drastic changes that we can only do short-term,” says Rebecca.
For seniors that may have specific questions regarding nutrition and their chronic disease, Rebecca recommends calling 8-1-1. There you can speak with a dietitian Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are also chronic disease outpatient clinics in Kamloops that seniors can access, and if this is desired, she suggests speaking with your doctor or nurse practitioner regarding these clinics specific to your needs.
When asked about succumbing to the use of some of the extreme diets being used by many these days such as Paleo or Keto, Rebecca offers an emphatic “No!” “I recommend creating healthy habits that you can do life-long rather than something that is drastic that you can only follow-short term,” says Rebecca. “The new Canada Food Guide is much simpler to use. More information about how to make these healthy changes can be found at Health Canada-Canada Food Guide. As dietitians, we use Canada’s Food Guide, just as that, a guide. We then work with clients to help with how to implement these habits, as everyone has varying needs/food preferences. When it comes to food myths, such as claims about “superfoods” or “bananas are high in sugar,” I recommend using reliable resources such as Dietitians Canada or Health Link BC for information about nutrition. There is no such thing as a superfood. Eating nutritious foods all in moderation will lead to a healthier diet when compared to eating just one nutritious food. As for bananas, they do contain sugar, but they also contain vitamins and fibre our bodies need,” says Rebecca.
If you or a loved one is facing some of these challenges when it comes to food, hopefully some of these resources will help inspire positive changes in your route (root) to wellness.