SENIOR PRINCIPAL DIETITIAN
FOOD SERVICE FOR OLDER ADULTS SPECIALIST
Stay Strong, Stay Active
It is never too late to adopt an active lifestyle, no matter your age. According to HealthHub, engaging in physical activity helps to improve coordination, balance, circulation and mental acuity. In addition to the increase in physical stamina, older adults who engage in both aerobic and strength-training exercises benefit from the reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, controlled body weight and strengthened muscles.
To achieve such significant health benefits, older adults only need to engage in a moderate amount of activity, preferably on a daily basis, depending on their individual body’s capacity. It is not advisable to go from 0 activity to 100 and end up hurting yourself. For some who face issues such as a gradual loss of mobility, there are exercises that put less strain on the body, such as chair yoga, swimming or tai chi. However, it’s vital to find out if a senior has any pre-existing medical conditions, as this will take into account the type, frequency, intensity and progression of the activity that they should partake in.
Strengthen Your Mind
While many are aware that physical fitness supports good health, exercising the mind is equally important to keep your brain mentally sharp and in top shape. There are a myriad of ways to engage in cognitive training, such as creating art (e.g. painting, crafting, colouring), reading books, gardening, doing crosswords or playing games that require strategic thinking, such as chess. These are fun ways to ensure that the brain muscle is receiving an adequate workout.
Eat Right, Live Well
During the festive season, food plays a huge role in every gathering – The holiday spread can be tempting and sometimes tormenting when it’s hard to stay on track and make healthy eating choices.
Although a little indulgence every once in a while especially during the holidays is acceptable, HealthHub advises that for older adults, being mindful and keeping a balanced diet will provide much needed nutrients, vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and minerals.
Maintaining a nutritious diet can also help to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions. This will help to keep their body healthy and their mind alert when going about with their daily routine.
Allium Healthcare Senior Principal Dietitian, Mary-Ann Chiam advised that as long as a person stays well hydrated, does not skip regular meals and has a small snack before going for a festive meal, then they’d be able to enjoy the festive treats without overindulging and feeling guilty.
Stay Social: Say Hi to Old Friends, and Make New Ones
Life is better when it is spent amongst family and friends – Research has shown that socially active seniors possess better cognition, lower risks of depression or dementia, and overall better health.
While physical limitations could make it challenging to expand their social circle and see family and friends pass away as they grow older, it is understandable that remaining socially active could be challenging.
However, with the use of social media, seniors can seek out old friends or meet new ones if they proactively choose to engage in the community or pick up hobbies that allow them to interact as a group. Meeting other people from different walks of life and building relationships that exposes seniors to new experiences and school of thought, would help to enrich a senior’s life and help them to stay positive.
In addition, being part of a group of friends or community will help boost their sense of belonging and inspire positive living.
Invest in Rest: The Power of Restorative Sleep
Getting older doesn’t mean you have to be tired all the time. The National Sleep Foundation reported that older adults (65 or more years old) should aim to keep regular sleep schedule and get at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night.
While there are many factors why slumber may elude seniors – ranging from sleep changes due to the effects of an ageing SCN to being in pain, feeling sick or having side-effects from medication, establishing a good quality rest is essential for restoring one’s energy, regulating moods and is important for physical health and strength.
Mary-ann’s current responsibilities at Allium Healthcare include assessment of nutritional needs, development and implementation of nutrition programmes for our clients.
Mary-ann has 20 years of clinical knowledge of specialised dietetic products. She managed the Dietetics and Food Service Department, leading the team in promoting healthy, nutritious eating habits, and appropriate dietary modifications to the residents at Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC) institutions.
As a Senior Dietitian at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for nine years, Mary-ann led the Food Service Staff in continuous Quality Improvement projects. At Bright Vision Hospital, she led a team of 17 food service staff and 4 dietitians as the Principal Dietitian and Food Services Manager.
Mary-ann has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Deakin University and a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry. Notably, she is a member of Enterprise Spring Technical Committee on Nutrition for Older Adults.