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Educate seniors on importance of nutrition and exercise

Singaporeans are living longer. Unfortunately, many will live their last decade in poor health.
Yet the issue of nutrition for elderly people has not received as much attention as it deserves.

Educate seniors on importance of nutrition and exercise

The issue of nutrition for elderly people has not received as much attention as it deserves, says the writer.

Singaporeans are living longer. Unfortunately, many will live their last decade in poor health.  

A geriatrician recently said on radio station CNA938’s Health Matters programme that we start losing 8 per cent of our muscle mass (a condition called sarcopenia) every decade from our 40s, with more women suffering from sarcopenia than men. 

Malnutrition is a key contributing factor to sarcopenia among elderly people. Low muscle mass affects health, and has an adverse impact on recovery from injury or surgery. 

Seniors need even better nutrition than before, since their bodies cannot absorb nutrients as well as younger bodies. Staying active is also important, and exercises to strengthen the limbs are key. 

In the past few years, the Government has taken steps to educate seniors on ageing better and healthier by staying active.

But the issue of nutrition for elderly people has not received as much attention as it deserves. It appears to me that many people, especially seniors, are not aware of the connection between nutrition and muscle mass loss as well as bone loss, resulting in many elderly people becoming weaker.

The geriatrician on the CNA938 programme said many older people are malnourished, and should take more protein- and calcium-rich food. Few seniors know this; most assume wrongly that they can eat less as their metabolism slows.

As someone who is in her mid-60s, I certainly did not know that until recently.  

The Ministry of Health and healthcare professionals, including medical and allied health practitioners, should step up efforts to educate seniors on the importance of proper nutrition and appropriate exercise. 

I read that Changi General Hospital, SingHealth Polyclinics and Abbott, a healthcare company, recently released findings from the first of a two-part study on the effects of nutrition management in seniors. The study, which is still in progress, aims to manage under-nutrition and promote active, healthy living among senior citizens. 

This is a good start.

At the suggestion of a dietitian, I recently started taking a protein- and calcium-rich supplement formulated for the elderly, and along with appropriate exercise, I am now more energetic. 

But I wish I had known about this earlier.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

nutrition elderly health sarcopenia

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