Every year in Canada, the month of March is “Nutrition Month” and aims to raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating while promoting meaningful nutrition conversations amongst Canadians. This year’s campaign theme is, “Ingredients for a Healthier Tomorrow” and focuses on topics including food security, food literacy, sustainable food choices, nutrition care and prevention. We explore a few of the important aspects of food and the role it plays in helping us age well in more detail below.
Food can bring people together
Some initiatives, such as collective kitchens, have been launched here and abroad to meet the nutritional, economic and social needs of people in the community. These collective kitchens can promote food security for participants, by increasing physical and economic access to adequate amounts of healthy and nutritious food. Such initiatives also aim to help participants prepare meals on a limited budget, develop their food knowledge and cooking skills, but also create social ties around the stoves.
Food is an important part of culture
Food not only nourishes the body but also helps maintain or rebuild the individual and social identity of older adults. In all cultures, every day, people perform activities related to food. These activities have an important and positive symbolic role because they allow family and social ties to be forged and crystallize the very identity of a person. Research has shown that older adults can maintain their identity and mental well-being by cooking and eating foods that reflect their culture and sharing their recipes and knowledge with others.
Personal circumstances affect eating behaviours
Changes in health status, loss of independence, widowhood, and social isolation pose threats to the well-being of older adults. These changes can lead to lower self-esteem and greater isolation. No longer having the autonomy required to prepare meals for themselves and their loved ones, some older adults are experiencing a real identity crisis. For example, a newly bereaved man who must learn to cook or an elderly woman who must delegate the preparation of meals to her husband, because she is no longer able to take care of them, could feel deprived of their identity.
Nutritional needs are different for everyone
A nutritious, well-balanced diet is important to health and well-being throughout the lifespan and helps us maintain strength, mobility, and a good quality of life as we age.
Nutritional needs may vary from person-to-person depending on whether someone has a chronic condition or disease or is underweight or overweight. It is a good idea to discuss your diet plan with your doctor, particularly if you have a chronic disease or other medical condition that can be affected by what you eat.
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is an important part of healthy aging. By bringing greater awareness to key elements such as culture and personal circumstances, and by understanding that nutritional needs vary by person, we can develop a more well-rounded view of nutrition.